The Demise Of Reading Culture And The Case Of Illiterate Graduates By Festus Ukwueze
POSTED 09/06/2018 14:13:30
What is missing from these pictures?
About three hundred people sit in an airplane. Some are dozing, most stare up at a small movie screen, while others brought their own video tapes.
A group of students remain in class during break period, chatting away.
Three people are seated in a doctor’s waiting room. One fiddles with a handheld game console, the second stares at the television that rests on an end table, the third has his head wrapped in earphones.
What is missing from these pictures, and increasingly from our lives, is the activity through which most of us learned much of what we know of the wider world. What is missing is the force that, according to a growing consensus of historians, established our patterns of thoughts and, in an important sense, made our civilization. What is missing is the venerable, increasingly dated activity that you are engaged in right now.
The importance of reading cannot actually be over stressed. Reading stimulates imagination, encourages quick learning and expands horizons. It encourages quick imagination and curiosity. Reading enhances acquisition of skills for handling complex ideas or issues.
Great readers are great speakers. An atheist once said ’’No wonder that great men of God, great preachers we see all around now are good voracious readers and not the work of the Holy Spirit.’’ He claimed that they are only pouring out what they have read from different books. He ascribed this to the huge amount of books you find in their personal library.
Nevertheless, when I am talking about reading culture, I am not talking of just reading your physics, chemistry, zoology or any field’s vocabularies.
I am talking about reading beyond the confined context of your fields. Reading historical books, journals, newspaper, classical books, atlas, and encyclopaedia among others. The CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, once said that he usually reads nothing less than 50 books from various fields yearly. In fact, he claimed that what he enjoys most doing at his leisure time is reading. No wonder he found himself where he is today. Books are different ideas summarized in a printed form. Go and ask from or about our present and gone leaders and successful men like Napoleon, Gates, Obama, among others about the secret to their giant stride and I am sure that cognitive and varietal reading is the bedrock.
Ironically, but not coincidentally, reading has begun fading from our culture at the very moment that its importance to that culture is finally being established. Its decline, many theorists believe, is as profound as, say, the fall of communism, and some have taken to prophesying that the down turn in reading could result in the modern world’s cultural and political decline.
The anecdotal evidence that reading is in decline is copious and compelling. That is a courtesy, alas, for which most of us would be grateful. The fact is that few of us have the time to read as much as we would like. We are too busy working or playing or watching television. Let us admit it. Our homes barely make room for reading. People used to have study rooms in their homes, now these haven for studies have been turned into game rooms. And our leaders seem to have given up on providing libraries; instead they busy themselves designing entertainment centres.
The optimists do have some statistics on their side. Books, the oldest form of print, seem to be doing reasonably well. Publishers, in fact, are churning out more and more of them. And publishers are selling more too. Reports of the death of books seem greatly exaggerated. Ah, but are those books actually being read? Not in many cases, from cover to cover. Books are often purchased to be consulted. Fiction and general-interest non-fiction works would seem to be designed to be read, but lately these books also serve other functions. Their authors often employ them as routes to movie contracts or to tenure or to the intellectual renown that apparently comes with having catalogued definitively, in two or three dense volumes. Their publishers increasingly see these books not as collections of sentences and paragraphs that might be clarified and sharpened but as products that must be publicized and marketed so that the balance sheets of the large conglomerates they now work for might tilt in the right direction.
Present and future generations in Nigeria are at risk of going straight from an oral to a digital culture, skipping over the writing and reading culture in the process. The library has the responsibility of making information available in different formats to encourage reading culture among students. But the libraries are not well facilitated and besides, students are not making use of the little it has.
How many Nigerian youths read the daily newspapers and occasional magazines from time to time talk more of literature books? No wonder one will be amazingly disappointed at what comes out of the mouth of most of our youths these days. Since the arrival of mobile phones and smart phones, students, especially those in the secondary and tertiary level of education, have lost focus and are distracted. They now concentrate more on phone calls and the social media than reading their books. Anyone who is always so engaged has little or no time for reading. This is simply why Nigerian institutions keep on producing illiterate graduates year after year.
Among many more, the primary and self-induced reason why Nigerian institution keep producing illiterate graduate is the great demise in reading culture. Year after year, reports of illiterate graduates from the NYSC are alarmingly increasing. We are producing unemployable illiterate who lack the critical human and analytical tools to connect, compete and collaborate in an increasingly globalised work environment all because of the lack of stimulation as to the importance of reading. That already is a ticking time.
Our universities and colleges are producing certificate illiterates as teachers at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education who then go on to produce more people like them. For people who are supposed to teach young minds, nothing could be more distressful. For the past couple of years, the results of the May/June Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for Nigeria is far a cry too serious about the poor reading culture among our students. If they go on to the tertiary level of education, the record is showing off a bleak future of dismay. We are having a serious issue that many of us are yet to come to terms with.
How then do we reinvent the wheels? How can we resuscitate our comatose reading culture? We do not need to look far to know why education has seemingly lost its soul. Reading is the backbone of a successful education. If a reader is a leader, as the saying goes, how are our youths, the supposed leaders of tomorrow going to lead the future generation? It will simply cause a notch hot enough not to be cooled. This is a wake-up call. A mode of thinking is being lost and people are busy amusing themselves to death. This is a warning about the consequences of a fallout in reading. We are losing a sort of psychic habit, a logic, a sense of complexity, an ability to spot contradiction and even falsity. And this loss is now being felt in all our daily activities and it could get worse. But most often, such warnings are delivered in print, so no one pays much heed. What has to be done has to be done. As David Bailey would say ‘’The best advice I ever get was
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