As cliché as this might sound, the popular saying ‘if you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book’ couldn’t be any truer. Interestingly, and sadly too, Nigerians take this even further as they wouldn’t even read a single page, let alone talk of an entire book. This sad reality has not only made Nigerians and Nigeria lose a lot of progressive opportunities but has caught international attention and made Nigeria the laughing stock once again.
When we emphasise about the dying reading culture in Nigeria, there are two ways to look at it. First, some people cannot read because they are illiterate, and then, there are the literate ones who just won’t read, unless it is some spammy post on how to make money quickly. Even then, you can be sure that many people won’t pay sufficient attention to the details.
Re-emphasising about a national shame that has become a global disgrace, the World Culture Score Index has rated Nigeria as one of the countries with the poorest reading culture in the world. Based on statistics from the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education, 38 percent of Nigerians are non-literate, just as four out of ten primary school pupils cannot read and comprehend. If that isn’t some scary statistics, we don’t know what it will take to scare Nigerians and the government of the day and make them realise it is a bad omen that portends only negativity for the country.
Out of the 62 percent of Nigerians who can read and write, it is even sadder to see that they have no interest in maintaining the reading culture Nigeria used to be famous for.
Some decades ago, Nigeria used to be known around the world as the country with some of the most well-read people, and not just that, some of the best authors and publishers throughout Africa. Both young and old likewise had the innate desire to read and maintain the culture both in and out of the school walls. The result of this reading culture was seen and felt in the quality of citizens and leaders we had in the country, as well as the performance of Nigerians who left the shores for other countries.
Nigeria’s poor reading culture sprang out of nowhere. It was influenced and continues to be influenced by some negative realities facing the country. First, there are hardly any libraries left across the states of the federation, and even those left cannot boast of recent books that don’t have some pages eaten off or faded ink.
Then, the standard of education that continues to take a nosedive can be blamed for the decline in reading culture, as students are neither encouraged nor taught to read.
Years ago, schools used to organise reading groups and activities to boost the creative abilities of their students. But now, there are no reading materials or structured reading activities even for the schools thinking to revive the culture. With little or no trained staff to carry out the planning, implementation, and monitoring, every idea to resuscitate the culture is dead on arrival.
When you add that to the widespread poverty, daily challenges of being a Nigerian, and the struggle to live from one day to the next while corrupt leaders and politicians hoard all the country ’s resources for themselves, it becomes hard to ask a Nigerian to spend some valuable minutes reading even a booklet.
Did we mention that the cost of books makes even the few willing people further discouraged from the activity?
Sadly, the poorer Nigeria’s reading culture becomes, the less intelligent its citizens are, because studies have proven the existence of a strong relationship between reading and intelligence.
Intensive reading has so many benefits for individuals and the country at large. It improves a person’s ability to solve problems, boosts emotional intelligence, supports mental health, builds social skills, and improves empathy and self-awareness. Take all of these things away and what you have is a brute society with one-track-minded people who don’t know left from their right.
With the obvious positive relationship between reading and all-around personal development, a serious country should understand that social and economic development will be an offshoot for national development. The country is lagging so far behind in human capital development but the leaders continue to look everywhere else but where they should be looking.
We cannot conclude without looking at the global dimension of the dying reading culture, especially amid this digital revolution. New media and technology have changed people’s disposition toward reading, and not as positive as we expected. One would think that the Internet would make lots of books and reading materials available to the public, but what is obtainable is a world of distraction that crowds and drowns out the opportunities for reading and an improvement of the reading culture.
There is a lot more to say on this topic, but it would be folly to keep the words flowing knowing full well that a large number of readers probably didn’t make it to this point, and you are probably itching to be done with this article.
What we must acknowledge, by way of a conclusion is that well-meaning individuals, organisations, leaders, and governments must leave no stone unturned in the bid to revive the dying reading culture in the country. And you, dear reader, must remember that it starts with you.