That a high reading culture prevailing among the people in a country is certainly a guarantee to the successful achievements of her developmental goals, cannot be disputed by any sincere expert on culture or literary critic.
That, generally, Africans are by nature notoriously lazy in copious and voracious reading can also not be disputed or denied by any sincere African writer or literary critic.
The world renowned Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe of 'Things Fall Apart' fame once made a succinct remark about the general lazy attitude towards reading by educated Africans as follows: "The educated African reads only for a purpose".
This dismal attitude of educated Africans in the contemporary African society towards reading is much worrying, and leaves much to be desired as far as the present developmental process of the African continent is concerned.
If educated Africans hardly read but reads only for a purpose, and do not have a high audience awareness or reading culture, then what about the teeming millions of Africans who have little education and are semi literates, so to speak? Your guess is as good as mine!
Widespread ignorance stemming out of an orgy of non-reading culture in contemporary African societies today is one of the main factors responsible for the lack of much development on the African continent today.
It is significant to know that one of the perennial problems militating against the development of African literature hitherto is audience awareness and for that matter, non-reading culture. The other one is the problem of public action.
At the present time in Ghana's history as a fast developing African country, she can boast of a high percentage literacy rate of educated citizens as compared to the relatively low literacy percentage rates prevailing in many African countries today.
In the light of this evidence, Ghana can be considered fortunate as being in a favorable and comfortable situation to be able to develop her present level of audience awareness to a much higher level to enhance the achievements of her present developmental goals.
Sir Francis Bacon, the famous English philosopher and great statesman once made the following statement about reading: "Reading Maketh A Man" Putting this statement explicitly in the other way round, it can be said that "Knowledge Is Power" And knowledge can only be acquired through wide reading to lift man out of ignorance to knowledge and enlightenment to enable him to progress and advance in all fields of human endeavor for survival and higher standard of living.
Generally, educated Euro-Americans are by nature more reading-cultured than their educated African counterparts.
Personally, I believe that the earnest attitude of Euro-Americans towards reading accounts for their highly developmental achievements in all fields of human endeavor in the modern world today as compared to what Africans had been able to achieve up to date.
Ghana as a fast developing African country at the present time must take some drastic measures now to improve and step up the audience awareness and for that matter, the reading culture among her citizens, so that she can move faster with her continual developmental efforts to experience optimum economic growth, development and prosperity.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, so says the well-known Chinese proverb.
In the light of this wisdom, The Ministry Of Education and the Ghana Education Service must earnestly begin now to work towards the building of a high reading culture in the country with the involvement of many non-governmental organizations such as the UNESCO Ford Foundation, Ghana Association of Writers (GAW)Goethe Institute, Fred Adenaur Foundation etc. and charitable wealthy Ghanaian business men and women at the junior high school and senior high school levels in the pursuit of inculcating and advocating a high audience awareness among Ghanaians at the present time.
This should be the base or the spring board in the modus operandi of the Ministry Of Education and the Ghana Education Service to find solution to this standing problem of non-reading culture in the Ghanaian society at the present time.
It is of interest and also significant to know that in the cause of raising high the reading culture in the Ghanaian society today, the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) had signed a memorandum of understanding in February, 2012 toopen up literary clubs in all the senior high schools in all the regions of Ghana. The rationale behind this national programme is to develop and encourage reading and writing habit or culture among the youth of the country.
In any opinion, it will be in the interest and more beneficial to the country if the Ghana Association of writers will expand this national programme to include the private school system and also youth associations such as the Young Men Christian Association (Y.M.C.A), Young Women Christian Association (Y.W.C.A), Disability Association of Ghana etc. in order to embrace the teeming youths of the country in a national crusade to step up the presentaudience awareness existing in the Ghanaian society.
Obviously, this elaborate national programme will involve huge expenditure to make it realistic, workable and impactful to benefit Ghana. And for this reason, the Ghana writers Association will need much financial support from the government and non-governmental organizations such as had been mentioned earlier in this article.
In the pursuit of raising a high reading culture in the Ghanaian society I will suggest that teachers who handle English language and Literature-In-English at the senior high school level to make it mandatory for all students to read at least fifteen novels, plays and poems of African and non-African origins, and write brief commentaries or notes on the contents of the materials they had read. This should take 30% of the total marks expected to obtain for each term's examination in each academic session. In addition, students must be required to make oral presentations in class every week on what they had read on their own during their leisure hours.
Silent hours allocated in the school time table for supplementary reading at the junior high school and senior high school levels must be strictly enforced for compliance by students; and students who will be found wanting in the violation of the silent hour period must be severely punished to serve as deterrent to others for the disregard of the silent hour period regulation for reading.
At the university level of the educational ladder, I suggest that students must have some time set aside to visit the libraries and read extensively on different subjects besides the subjects that they are reading for their programmes of study. This practice will eventually make them to be well read and well informed to become versatile instead of being specialized, limited and narrowed to the confines of their disciplines that they are reading to graduate in.
Students should not live in self delusion thinking that they can develop a high reading culture to gain much knowledge by reading only on their mobile phones and computers, because this approach or method of reading is woefully inadequate and insignificant to make a student well read and well informed.
The fact is that the modern mobile phones and computers cannot give much indepth information as compared to what the traditional libraries are capable of giving. Sitting in the libraries and reading for hours on end invariably makes a student to imbibe much more information than what mobile phones and computers can provide.
The habit or culture of reading can be well developed through frequent reading of "hardware copies of books" stocked in the traditional libraries; and all students must take note of this stark truth.
The information that one can get or access on modern mobile phones and computers is often superficial and sketchy. Thus, students who are desirous to develop a formidable or a strong reading culture should spend more time in the traditional libraries reading, and supplement this with reading on their mobile phones and computers.
I wish to suggest to the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to try as much as they can in various ways to encourage, persuade and to advocate for a national protocol of reading to make all literate and all well educated Ghanaians in both high and low positions on the social ladder to establish home libraries besides their computers so that they can get or access all kinds of information to update their knowledge on various subjects and issues of national and international interests.
It is therefore imperative for all well educated Ghanaians occupying high public offices to have a few hours set of time fixed regularly within the week to be devoted for extensive reading for information, education and pleasure. Ideally this should occur about three or four times within the week as breaks-off from busy schedules.
Once again, I restate that a higher audience awareness in the present Ghanaian society is indispensable to accelerate the pace for the successful achievementsof Ghana's present developmental goals.
Reading for a purpose such as preparing for an examination, an interview, a lecture, speech or an important occasion, or event is highly insignificant to make any impact as far as a strong and high reading culture among all literates and well educated Ghanaians, in the present Ghanaian society isconcerned.
I wish to make a strong appeal to the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to immediately start working now in earnest to find solution to this long standing problem of non-reading culture, which has bedeviled the present Ghanaian society.
In conclusion, I have the conviction that Ghana as a fast developing African country today, will immensely benefit from a higher audience awareness or culture of reading for that matter, to accelerate the pace of development of her present on going Ghana beyond aid agenda. For, a reading-cultured people of a country, is pre-requisite to the successful achievements of all her developmental efforts or programmes; and Ghana at the present time, cannot afford to dispense with a high reading culture among her citizens to jeopardise her bright future!