10 June 2015

Ethiopia: Do We Read?


So the well-known African proverb goes: "It takes a village to raise a child," everyone in a community plays an important role in the welfare and development of children.

The proverb could also apply as we explore the complexity of developing children's reading habits by suggesting "It takes a village to raise a reader." This implies that educators, parents, community leaders and librarians all play a vital role in the development of children who not only can read, but who do read.

One of the weapons through which the developed world managed to defeat poverty is education. It creates more new knowledge, findings and innovations that remedy various problems. For this to happen, a nation should develop the culture of reading in various ways.

There is a huge gap we need to fill from this point of view. With a growing literacy, the number of people reading books is not proportionally rising. Even authors are discouraged from writing new books due to lack of readers of either newly published and old books. The expansion of technology has simplified reading that one can nowadays easily access to a book from the internet and read it. But we are not as such giving it the value it deserves.

We have to develop reading culture to nurture and promote literature in Ethiopia. Parents and teachers should shoulder great responsibility to realize this because reading is a culture where children develop at early age.

We can't instantly become voracious readers. It is a habit we develop through time. Writers cannot produce creative works under condition where there are no sizable readers. Hence, parents, teachers, policy makers and all concerned have to work for promoting and developing vibrant reading culture. Access to and choice of traditional print books are key resources to achieving a reading culture.

However, successful reading programmes must also consider the impact of new technologies on literacy which "has now come to mean a rapid and continuous process of changes in the ways in which we read, write, view, listen, compose and communicate information.

We can share thousands of books nowadays via the social media. We have to develop not only the culture of reading, we have to nurture writing. As compared to our huge population, we do hot have adequate number of writers. We are enslaved to foreign writers and books and we will keep on until we have our own in all areas of life.

Foreigners are accustomed to writing travel stories, writing commentaries on state policies either opposing or supporting, and other issues. But we are yet far behind them with respect to this experience. Even though we have more than two thousand years old literature, we do not have a well nurtured reading and writing culture.

What makes the task ahead challenging is we can not develop the habit of reading with in a short period of time. In is a gradual process that should better begin during childhood. Hence, it requires the concerted effort of all stakeholders in the governmental and non-governmental bodies. It should inculcate all sections of the society irrespective of age and level of education.

We have to tailor various incentives that can enable us to promote the culture of reading and writing. Youth should be awarded for writing on various issues and for reading as much as possible.

Most importantly, we need to have adequate number of libraries with adequate number and type of books. Unless, our society will end up in a state of deficiency for the necessary knowledge to lead life in a sound way, let alone the knowledge to remedy heap junk of problems that we face now.

We can learn from parts of the world who are endowed with huge natural resources but are still under the yoke of insecurity, and poverty due to lack of knowledge on how to wisely utilize their wealth and live in peace and harmony together.

Above and beyond, all the problems that we are facing at this juncture as a nation could be solved either directly or indirectly when we have the required knowledge to solve them. This in turn requires reading voraciously. However, we could hardly confidently speak that we read.


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