Paper Title
READING CULTURE AS STRATEGY FOR ENLIGHTENMENT, PEACE, AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
Author
Ojel C. Anidi & Ijeoma C. Aneke
Section
Arts, Language, and Communication
Abstract

This paper is a sensitization campaign on the need for an active reading culture in Nigeria, as a way of fostering enlightenment, peace and development in the nation. It reviews the dynamic relationship between the concepts of reading, reading culture, enlightenment, peace and development, particularly as it concerns Nigeria. It further provides strategies for building a more active reading culture, for enlightenment, peace, and development in Nigeria. The paper is necessitated, on the one hand, by the public outcry on the issue of poor reading culture and high level of illiteracy among the Nigerian citizenry, and, on the other hand, the persistent problems of insecurity, low productivity and poverty in Nigeria, which could be linked to the poor reading culture and high level of illiteracy in the country. The research relied mainly on qualitative library research method. Students, teachers, parents, writers, publishers, curriculum designers, education ministries, libraries, political leaders and the general public will find this paper instructive. 

Keywords
Reading, Reading culture, Enlightenment, Peace, and Development

Introduction

Reading culture, at present, in Nigeria is in double jeopardy: not only is the patronage low, the efforts made by past Nigerian governments, institutions, and different organizations, local and international, to entrench it in the country have been jeopardized by the current “viewing culture” and “chatting culture”, the habits of watching pictures or videos, and chatting with friends in smart phones and other electronic devices, especially among the youths, in the country. This situation is a source of worry to many Nigerians. Akaligwo (2016), for example, makes a comparison between the youths of his generation, those who are about forty to fifty years old now, and the much younger generation, who are in school now:

We were voracious readers of novels and other books. Nelkon for our Ordinary Level Physics, Lambert for Chemistry, B.O. Adeleke and Goh Cheng Leong for our Geography, Phebean Ogundipe for Practical English, Achebe and Soyinka for Literature and others like that. We were always flaunting our knowledge of current affairs…. Nowadays, students can hardly string a sentence together in English without errors. Fast forward 35 years on and you are shocked and disturbed. Have you ever spoken to or engaged a 20 year-old boy? Ask him what motivates him and he is likely to mention music, hip hop to be precise. He has hundreds of downloaded songs on his phone. He can sing all of them off hand. (Alaligwo in Mothers’ Voice, 15, p. 29)

The scenario painted above exposes the problem of poor reading culture in Nigeria today. The youths today spend too much of their time and energy watching videos, playing music and chatting real time, such that they have too little time and energy to spare on reading useful materials, including their school books. In this vein, Adesulu, Adebusayo, & Amos (2017) lament that most students do not read in many universities and higher institutions in Nigeria; the few who read once in a while merely do so as a means of passing their examinations. This position is elucidated by the comments made by Mr. Cornelius Audu, a library officer at the Ramat Library at the University of Maiduguri, on the matter: “Whenever you see many students here [in the library], it’s either they have test, assignment or examination which is at variance with the culture of seriousness we had in the past. Then, students read every day and even at night as the school library is open even at night” (Adesulu et al., Vanguard, 2017).

The incidence of poor reading culture in Nigeria today is not limited to the youths alone; a large percentage of adults, even those with higher education, in the country today have significantly exhibited a decrease in their reading habits. This problem is attributable to globalization and the rapid development of the entertainment industry which have displaced reading as a prestigious source of information and as a pleasant and esteemed form of leisure (Kamalova and Koletvinova, 2016). In Nigeria, for example, from observation, adults who once regarded reading as leisure now prefer to entertain themselves by watching the CNN, Super Sports, Nat Geo Wild, or the popular Nollywood (African Magic) channels, while the children are preoccupied with Nickelodeon, the cartoon networks, videos, music, and games. In the opinion of Senator Sani, the present Senate Committee Chairman on Local and Foreign Debts in Nigeria, on this issue, the decline in reading culture was real, not just among young people, but also among the political leaders, which is evident in the low quality of their intellectual discourse (Ramalan, 2017).

 

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