International Literacy Day: Reading must be interesting; not punishing
Any activity that has a day set aside to commemorate it internationally defines its importance.
Such is the case of literacy, which is commemorated each year on September 8.
Literacy undergirds the growth and development of every society.
It is the light and energy that guide and propel a society’s aspiration towards achieving a common goal.
Literacy connects minds and helps bring clarity to different thoughts, practices and behaviours, thereby securing national cohesion.
The basic definition of literacy is the ability to read and write and perform simple numeracy. UNESCO also defines literacy as “the ability to understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society…” (UNESCO Institute of Statistics).
Reading plays a major role when it comes to the subject of literacy; it is no secret that notwithstanding the importance of reading, we have always complained of low interest in reading.
The question is: If reading, which is cardinal to the subject of literacy, is so important, why do we always record low patronage regarding the number of people who read?
Why would a child who has had a taste of a sumptuous food object to eating it?
The truth is that as a society, we have not found a way to make reading interesting.
My experience as the lead person, who runs reading promotion activities for the Ghana Book Development Council, does not give me an inkling of evidence that schoolchildren in basic schools do not like reading.
Countless times, the schoolchildren we have engaged with have always asked for more time to read when we exhausted the allotted time for such exercises.
There were occasions when some of the pupils sought to copy some of the paragraphs that we read.
I have discussed below some factors that account for sustained interest in reading.
A strategy to ensure that children take a delightful interest in reading is how a facilitator conducts or guides reading exercises.
Ultimately, reading must be done not only for acquiring knowledge but also for pleasure.
Reading activities should not be punishing, but interesting.
Since storybooks are ultimately records of societal experiences and views, whether fiction, non-fiction or faction (fact and fiction) they must be read by being ‘talked’ to reflect the real experiences of people, especially children.
This requires experience, skill and knowledge on the part of those who lead such exercises.
All efforts must be put in place to ensure that reading activities are made interesting.
Growing up, for those who are quite old, we never shunned the storytelling times.
We always embraced them and they were always part of us.
Another way to generate interest in reading, especially for children, is to give authors some form of training.
Storybooks must not overlook the interests and setting of readers and must reflect current issues that border on the needs and interests of readers.
Authors ought to know how to create the required suspense, mood and tone to be able to sustain readers’ interest.
Finally, publishers can contribute to high interest in reading by ensuring the production of age-appropriate books.
Definitely, a Class One pupil will not take delight in reading a book meant for a Class Six pupil.
In all spheres of life, the beginning of an act is always important. C
onsequently, publishers must focus on a lot of age-appropriate books that are meant for pupils in lower primary schools.
It is at such times that habits are formed.
Books for such level should have illustrations and pictures that are capable of telling the stories, even when children cannot decipher the words in the stories.
Books that are not easy to read at this stage could create perpetual damage to their reading habits and interests.
In conclusion, there is the need to make reading interesting; thus, helping to create a society that reads because of the importance and pleasure of reading.
This is surely the responsibility of everyone and every stakeholder.
As we celebrate International Literacy Day, let us all decide to do our best to create a culture of reading.
The writer is a Senior Literacy Promotion Manager, Ghana Book Development Council.