In this era of technological explosion, children and youths of today need total re-orientation to shape their future in the area of reading. The reading culture among our youths and children can conveniently be said to be in its lowest ebb compared to olden days. Prior to this era of technological bang there were many functional libraries where children go to read, even during their holidays. Some would borrow books that they do not have the means to purchase. But today, the story is different. Many children and youth prefer to stay attached all day to television sets or android telephones, play computer games or engage in other indoor games to picking a book and reading it at home.
Without mincing words, the poor reading culture has had adverse consequences on our educational system and growth of the nation. It has obviously affected the standard of education in the country.
I strongly believe that honing the child’s reading skills should begin at an early age. We need to return back to that era when birthday and other celebration gift items for our children are books that would impart sound knowledge on them. Reading will not only help children learn new words and widen their vocabulary, it would also bring them to a position where they would be able to appreciate different types of literature.
In the days past, there were functional libraries across most state and local government capitals where young people go to read, borrow books and improve themselves. Most of those libraries have either shut down or are in terrible states. Even book shops are not as rich and widespread as they use to be owing to down turn in reading culture. Authorship is no longer as lucrative as it use to be. In the days past, if you author a good book you have hit fortune. Even copy right challenge was not as bad as it is today.
Changing the current poor reading culture and rebuilding our libraries would be a herculean task for our society. It would take concerted effort of all stakeholders to re-orientate our younger folks in this direction. Parents, schools, Civil Society Organisations and government all have big roles to play.
It is for these reasons that one of the major activities of the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki last week readily comes to mind. The Governor told visiting members of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) led by the Chairman of Edo State Chapter, Dr. (Mrs.) Evelyn Omoluabi Idiodi that his administration is set to collaborate with them to rethink and restore the library system in the state.
The governor said the collaboration would help to create a new model of library system that would work for the state, adding that the group’s visit was timely because of the importance of libraries in the state’s educational system.
The governor, like many Edo citizens is keen on rethinking the library system to blend it with new ways of doing things in the education sector of the state. His words: “We can have many more books than we can store physically, we can store such electronically. We can have an e-library, using it as a model to re-enact our library system in the state”.
A major outcome of the governors engagement with the NLA was the disclosure by the governor that he was already speaking with an investor with the funding to come and invest in the state as he knows of people who are currently investing on libraries in schools both within and outside the country.
The governor is seeking genuine plans and suggestions on how to revive the libraries in Edo State in ways and manners that it would work for the people and cost less. He equally wants progressive citizens and public spirited individuals as well as authours to contribute to this lofty idea by donating books, structures or funds to speed-up the development of public and private library systems in the state. This is truly the way to go and deserves the support of all and sundry.
Edo people must join hands with Governor Obaseki and his team to arrest the deteriorating nature of public and private library systems in the state. Government alone cannot do it. Corporate citizens in the state needs to be involved. Corporate establishments should build and donate functional libraries to their host communities as part of their corporate social responsibilities.
Many citizens of the old Mid-Western region, later Bendel State would recall that Library Board did not only provide opportunities for knowledge development, but also kept our children and youth away from malingering and criminal activities that currently plague our young people.
It is indeed sad that all the efforts of past governments to develop our library was left to go down abysmally. One can even recall that there were schools competitions among secondary schools in the days of Midwest and Bendel state such as essay competitions organised by the State library board which provided healthy completion among school children. Of course, their prizes were books such as Guinness Book of records and many such other important books.
As a first step going forward, it will be very crucial for government, through the Edo State Ministry of Education to give very clear instruction to all school heads both primary and secondary levels to establish school libraries. There should also be double period in a week for each class to use the library. This, apart from rejuvenating the reading culture among children, would certainly create jobs, as well as bring the state library system up to pace with the modern standards.
Parents and guardians equally have a bigger role to play. Instead of buying children pocket-sized video games and android phones, parents should give their children books to read. They should in like manner, set up a home library which may not be as expensive as some people think. A mini-library at home provides a means of organising your growing book and magazine collections. At least some hours in the week should also be set aside for parents to compel their children to use the library and teach them its importance so that they can, in like manner, pass it on to upcoming generation.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media on their part have a major role to play in creating the much needed awareness in returning to our old days of reading culture. We need to catch them young and wrestle the young persons of today from the poisonous fangs of the debilitating effects of computers and phones. We need to win the war all over again and in the same vein take our young people out of crime by getting them to spend quality time reading their books and developing themselves and consequently, the society.
• Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.