What do you read?

I was a facilitator at the induction training of newly employed staff of a very reputable organisation in Nigeria recently. The subject matter was on Creativity and Innovation as tools for organisational turnaround. It was indeed a great time with the 170 trainees. In today’s e-world where machine is taking the place of human labour, the only survival strategy for any employee is to be able to go above what the machines can do. Artificial Intelligence notwithstanding, an employee who will survive in any employment must be creative and innovative.

The need to do things differently and constantly think beyond the box has been over-flogged. The paradigm shift now is to think as if there was no box. Imagine the world is your space and you are limitless what would you do? When in the course of the session, the subject of sources of creative ideas was brought up for discussion, i asked the team of 170 trainees how many of them read books and to my dismay only about 15 of them were confident enough to signify positively. I was very specific in my question to exclude the Bible and the Quran because someone who reads a verse or two from the holy books would also claim to be reading.

Its quite unfortunate that in this age of technology where you can store e-books on your phone and access to several e-libraries have been made easy, people still would not make attempt to read. What will happen to the next e-generation? The problem is not that people do not have access to books, it is simply that this generation have made a decision not to read. While i was growing up in the late seventies and eighties my siblings and i had reading competitions during our holidays from school. The bigger the book, the more fascinated we were.

  1. What then are our options if people will not read?
  2. How can we get our generation to be interested in opening their books again?
  3. Can the social media take the place of books in this generation?
  4. With the spate of fake, unreferenced information from the social media, how secure are information this generation is exposed to?
  5. How can we preserve knowledge and ensure it is passed on to people who will not read?
  6. What are the roles of parents, teachers, educational institutions and governments in improving the quality of the reading life of the next generation?

I am aware that there are programmes organised by Association of Nigerian Authors and some NGOs to encourage reading in schools but what are the effects of these programmes and how has it improved the reading culture of Nigerians. Needless to say this trend is not just a Nigerian or African problem. In those days when you travel in aircrafts or even by road, it was not uncommon to come across co-passengers who had books to read in the course of the journey or while waiting at the airport lounge. This is no longer the case. All you see at such places are people pressing phones, tweeting, face-booking etc.

Today the poor reading habit is impacting on the quality of graduates and employees that the society will make do with. All they know is what they are taught in school. They lack depth and are unable to apply basic knowledge to real life situations. I believe we can change the narrative and find a lasting solution if this conversation is taken beyond mere observations to taking drastic steps like introducing reading as a core course in schools at all levels.

Adenike Babajamu (February 2021)

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