Last week’s column evoked an interesting query from an ardent reader of this paper. She wondered whether the availability of books in the new supermarkets can better the reading culture of people here.
I know for a fact that there are several people with similar concerns. However what such queries imply is not just that the availability of books will have an impact on the reading culture. More precisely, these concerns bring out the latent fatalism that most people have for the reading culture here.
There is a section of people who strongly believe that we are doomed. That nothing much can be done to improve the reading culture.
I am always ready to disagree with them on this point. It is indeed very possible to positively change the reading attitudes of people here and anywhere else for that matter.
In most cases the culture of reading, like many others, is first nurtured from the initial point of socialisation, the home. The environment where a child grows plays a vital role in influencing their reading culture.
A home that has a library and literate parents who love to read a piece of literature is more likely to have children growing up with a more positive reading culture than a home without any of these conditions.
Reading bedtime stories to young children certainly does a lot to influence a child’s future reading habits. In other words, the reading culture can get a very big boost if parents do more reading and litter their homes with more reading materials.
For example, instead of reading a newspaper and leaving it in the office, why not bring the copy home so that those at home can also peruse through to see if there is something that could interest them.
Schools also have a very vital role to play in boosting the reading culture of their students. Having a library in the school is one thing, using it effectively is another thing all together.
Students should be encouraged to use the various books in the school library. The process of getting a book from there should not be an experiment for how bad bureaucracy can get. It should be an easy and interesting experience.
Schools can also make it a policy for children to always do a book report during the course of the term. It does not have to be related to what they are studying in class or for literature.
For society in general, the easy access of reading materials is one of the best ways to promote a positive reading culture in the country.
The presence of bookshops in various corners of the country is very important. Such facilities should not just be restricted to the city centre.
If the government can extend internet facilities to all corners of the country then the Ministry of Education should be thinking along the same lines as far as nurturing a good reading culture is concerned.
The government can for example offer tax subsidies to investors willing to open bookshops in upcountry towns. Newspapers being some of the most popular and easy to find reading materials should indeed be easy to find.
There should be newsstands in all major supermarkets and street corners. Enough copies of the popular newspapers should be printed and made available very early in the morning.
The content and language in the newspapers should not be aimed only at the elite but anyone with basic reading skills. In simple English, a variety of topics should be addressed to cater for the information needs of different readers.
Indeed having any reading materials available can go a long way in promoting the reading culture. It is not fair to blame people for not reading yet in the actual sense they cannot easily find what to read. It is still too early to give up.