Once upon a time, Nigeria paraded the best set of authors and publishers in Africa. At that time, reading was an innate affection for both the young and old. This culture reflected so much on the quality of leadership and civil discipline that it brought pride to Nigerians anywhere in the world!
But now, the rich literacy history that the country was famous for is gradually being eroded. A new type of reading problem is sweeping our country. It is called alliteracy, the quality or state of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so. Yes, reading which was once indulged in as a pleasure is now often spurned as a chore.
Nigeria has been rated by the World Culture Score index as one of the countries in the world with the lowest reading culture. Available statistics from the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education show that 38 per cent of Nigerians are non-literate, as four in 10 primary school children cannot read for comprehension.
What are some of the factors that contribute to the poor reading culture in the country? The downturn in reading and book readership actually has a global dimension, especially given the onslaught of the digital revolution. Globally, the influence of new technology has altered the disposition to reading. Perhaps the most time-consuming competitor of reading is television.
Also, the decline in the standard of education has seriously affected reading ability; before now, schools engaged and participated in reading activities to enhance the thinking and creative ability of students. But lack of availability of suitable reading materials, absence of well-designed reading activities, insufficiently trained staff to prosecute reading culture in schools and ineffective monitoring and evaluation of readership promotion programmes are constant challenges currently affecting readership development.
Another possible factor contributing to the poor reading culture in Nigeria is perhaps that our socio-economic environment is not reader friendly. The daily struggle for economic survival provides little or no time for people to cultivate a good reading habit. Equally, high cost of books, particularly imported ones, as well as a dearth of dedicated quiet reading spaces like libraries, has contributed to low readership promotion in the country.
Why is reading important, and what benefits come from developing a good reading habit? Reading is the key to unlocking many kinds of knowledge, skills and enjoyment. Reading stimulates the imagination, develops verbal skills by helping us build up a good vocabulary, and reading also promotes the fine, godly quality of patience. Also, studies have shown that there is an almost symbiotic relationship between reading and intelligence.
The analytical skills that provide the ability to understand issues and solve problems are the product of intensive reading. Reading regularly is also a way to mental health, which enhances emotional intelligence, helps with self-awareness, empathy, social skills and managing relationships more effectively. Reading also provides a therapeutic effect and inner tranquility, while also slowing mental decline.
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