By Dayo Adesulu
Unless Nigerians embrace reading culture, the countryâ€™s quest for entrepreneurship and advancement will remain elusive.
This view came from Mrs Nurat Yusuf of the National Library of Nigeria during the commissioning of Library and Information Centre at Command Day Secondary School, Ojo, reiterating that Nigeria is behind in reading while it places more emphasis on paper qualification.
Yusuf pointed out that with this limited notion of education, lots of people are less interested in the mental, spiritual and physical development of a person which education offers in school curriculum than they are in the kinds of grades they amass after graduation from schools as the sole reason for education is to develop the mind, not to obtain papers.
According to Yusuf,Â â€œWhen the mind is well developed, the society stands the chance of being developed too. Reading for the enlightened mind goes beyond the school program.
It is a way of life. To stop reading is to stop updating. And to stop updating inâ€™ an ever changing worldÂ is to start decaying. This laxity of reading culture reflects the way Nigerian writers and academicians are being treated. Most of the time, some of the greatest intellectuals Nigeria ever produced are more respected and valued in other countries than they are within the enclave of Nigeria.
This is pathetic and damaging to the integrity of any nation.â€
She maintained that reading outside the classroom is simply a way of learningÂ in order to hone your writing skills and learn more about different topics and different parts of the world
In the early 80s, the Director claimed that students read a lot of popular fiction like Mills and Boon, James Hardly Chase, Pacesetters, among others, saying that instead of the novels to distract them from concentrating on their studies, the students learn new words, phrases and expressions to write impressing essays and letters to their friends.
Nowadays, Yusuf continued, students donâ€™t read for leisure, instead they watch films and play video games all the time, stressing that a video game may have its educational relevance, but it cannot be relied upon to take the place of reading outside the classroom.
Explaining further, Yusuf noted that computer games and chatting make some youngsters to become so engrossed that it becomes difficult to pick up a book to read.
Yusufâ€™s words: â€œ Few in Nigeria, including our political leaders, read anything at all.
Indeed, a former Head of State once boasted that he does not read Nigerian Newspapers! Most Nigerians only read when they have examinations to take! It is no wonder that public discourse on very important issues is devoid of serious intellectual depth.
When the pursuit of certification replaces education in any country, interest in books, which is essential to any serious education project, declines. Arising from these anomalies is the decline in attendance in libraries, even at the university level.
She continued:Years back, I was at a forum where the deteriorating culture of reading was discussed. Some believed it was caused by high cost of books as with everything else over the years. And some believed it was just that the interest was not there.
Whatever may be the reason, I find it quite surprising to see somebody who doesnâ€™t read novels, or even newspapers and magazines for that matter. To them,Â if they listen to news over the radio, it is enough, they donâ€™t care for details.â€
The key to being brilliant, Yusuf affirmed, is through reading outside the classroom as students can improve on sentence construction, write correct sentences and learn direct and indirect speeches if they read novels.
â€œThere has been world-wide lament on the issue of funding libraries and our National Library is not an exception. Public libraries are neglected, and lack of libraries and information centres, equipment, ICT facilities and constant electricity are presently theÂ insurmountable challenges confronting our reading culture, she said.â€
Yusuf charged all stakeholders in education, government, parents and teachers to contribute positively to improving education of our children, saying that though novels and other books may be expensive but second hand ones are available and very cheap.
In order to foster reading culture, said Yusuf, the government has a huge role to play by going beyond her bulk purchases of books in the basic subjects, including other subjects, especially story books that will promote reading amongst our children from a very early age.
To parents, she exhorted that they should ensure they make themselves available to cross-check their childrenâ€™s works from school, assist or do their assignment with them, present books as gifts when you need to and appreciate their efforts.
As for the teachers, she reiterated that they should take pride in imparting knowledge and seeing their students competing and trying to do their best in all examinations and the schools should inspire their teachers by giving awards to those deserving of them due to the quality of the work they have put in.
Her words: â€œParents should learn to expose their children to reading. By so doing, they are shaping their little minds towards greatness. Professors and teachers should expose their students to disciplined culture of reading and research.
The profit of such action is enormous not only for the individuals involved but for the entire nation.
As expensive and exorbitant as Nigerians could be, it is not a surprise that a goodÂ number of wealthy and highly educated people across the country do not have libraries in their homes. A home could harbour every gorgeous and expensive thing except books.
If Nigeria therefore as a nation wants a prosperous future of massive techno scientific and industrial revolution, socio-political and economic renovation, she needs to embrace a reading culture like the rest of the emerging worldâ€