Monday, 11th December 2023

Assessing the reading culture of Nigerians

By Olupitan Kemi
08 September 2023   |   3:41 am
In an era dominated by digital distractions and rapid technological advancement, the state of a nation’s reading culture serves as a critical indicator of its intellectual development and societal progress.

Reading culture

In an era dominated by digital distractions and rapid technological advancement, the state of a nation’s reading culture serves as a critical indicator of its intellectual development and societal progress. Nigeria, with its rich history, diverse cultures, and vibrant population, stands at a crossroads when it comes to fostering a robust reading culture. This article aims to assess the current state of reading in Nigeria, delve into the challenges that hinder its growth, and propose viable solutions to rekindle the nation’s passion for reading.

While Nigeria boasts a vibrant literary tradition with celebrated authors like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Buchi Emecheta, Femi Osofisan, Ola Rotimi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie among others, the overall reading culture among Nigerians has faced significant challenges. A combination of factors, including limited access to books, a struggling educational system, and the allure of modern entertainment, has contributed to a decline in reading habits across the country.

Surveys reveal a disheartening reality: a substantial portion of the Nigerian population seldom engages with literature beyond academic requirements or superficial social media content.

Parents have also contributed greatly to the challenges of cultivating a reading culture by not being a role model worth emulating because children get exposed and introduced to life first by just observing them

And sadly, this statement has become a reality today: if you want to hide something from a Nigerian, put it in a book, because he won’t read it. A sad fact that we all agree to either consciously or subconsciously.

Now let’s consider some of the challenges that has led to the decline in reading one way or another in Nigeria, or hindered it in some way. Access to Books: Widespread access to quality reading materials remains a formidable obstacle. Public libraries are scarce and often underfunded, and the cost of purchasing books, both physical and digital, is prohibitive for many Nigerians. And with the current rise in prices of food and many other things, importance has been shifted to getting the little food meagre salary can buy without giving thoughts to even setting aside money for purchasing a book.
Education System: A faltering education system places minimal emphasis on cultivating a love for reading. Rote learning and exam-focused curricula discourage critical thinking and intellectual exploration. True the curriculum includes books for the students to read but this is only available to the arts students who are offering Literature-in-English. It doesn’t include the science students. These books are selected only for exam purposes without the interest of the students at heart. Could it be that they would enjoy fictional novels, non-fictional books or even poetry?. They are being bombarded and forced to work within the circle the government has created for them and not even dare peek out the circle.

Technological Distractions: With the introduction of smart phones, social media, and online entertainment, it has become evident that attention has been diverted from books. Quick and flashy digital content often takes precedence over the depth and introspection offered by literature. Television sets have proved to be a more distracting avenue in our days giving way for laziness when it comes to reading because many literary works have been adapted to home videos. By so doing, many have reasoned that since books has been adapted to movies of two hours, there’s no need reading the book that will take 3 days or even longer to finish. Many now prefer to watch the movies than read the books forgetting that these build their brains by allowing it to imagine and learn new things.
Difference in Social Status: Because of the difference in social status in respect to financial means, it has been discovered that reading pleasure can be affected. Those from privileged backgrounds may have better access to resources and exposure to a reading-friendly environment than those from the less privileged.
After considering the challenges that contributes to the decline in reading in Nigeria, what can be done as a means of reviving the spirit of reading for pleasure. The following areas might help if utilised to its fullest.

Promoting Community Libraries: Establishing and funding well-equipped community libraries can serve as accessible hubs for reading and learning. These spaces can host book clubs, author talks, and reading programs to engage and inspire people of all ages.
Curriculum Reforms: Overhauling the education system to prioritise critical thinking, analytical skills, and a love for literature is crucial. Incorporating diverse, culturally relevant texts can ignite students’ interest in reading.
Digital Outreach: Making use of the advancement in technology to disseminate literature can be very effective. Initiatives like e-book platforms, online reading challenges, and interactive apps can make reading more appealing to the tech-savvy younger generation.

Awareness Campaigns: Launching national campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of reading and its long-term benefits can shift societal perceptions. Public figures, celebrities, and influencers can play a pivotal role in endorsing and promoting reading. Using words that convince and aesthetically pleasing visuals can help influence people to explore the endless possibilities that come with reading.
Literary Festivals and Events: Organising regular literary festivals, book fairs, and writing competitions can celebrate Nigeria’s literary heritage and encourage aspiring writers and readers to actively participate, putting in the lime light and being celebrated.
In conclusion, assessing the reading culture of Nigerians reveals a pressing need for more focused efforts to revive and nurture this essential aspect of societal development. By addressing challenges such as limited access, education reform, and the allure of technology, Nigeria can rekindle its passion for reading and empower its citizens with the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to thrive in an increasingly complex world.

The time is ripe for a collective endeavor to cultivate a nation of lifelong readers, fostering a brighter and more intellectually vibrant future for Nigeria.

A sad truth I do not intend to acknowledge is that not many would pick up this newspaper or even read this article but we’ll gradually get there someday.
Olupitan is a student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Department of Mass Communication.