Promoting a Reading Culture
The way to bring positive change
Nothing can be more wonderful than the smell of old books and the crackling sound of new ones for a person who has the habit of reading books.
One of the best qualities a person can have is the habit of reading. Reading books is a wonderful habit in many ways; it has a long-lasting, positive impact on the reader’s life in particular, and on society in general. It works as a brain-booster; it reduces stress, enhances knowledge, increases vocabulary, improves focus and gives a huge impetus to the writing, communication and analytical skills of the reader.
Books inform, enlighten and lead a person in the right direction. They form the best source of motivation during times of desperation. They provide a great way to solve real-life problems. Readers are better able to manage their anxiety and stress as they find the solutions to their problems by reading stories similar to their own, in books. Another benefit of reading books is that the imagination and creativity of a reader are elevated and it helps him/her to explore life from many perspectives. Also, new and creative thoughts are built in the mind of the reader. Besides, reading books helps build up the reader’s character as (s)he develops the trait of being sympathetic to others when (s)he reads about the stories of people who suffer from poverty, hunger and disease. Hence, it can be said that book reading nourishes the soul and enhances the human intellect.
The habit of reading good books is not only beneficial for an individual, but it is also advantageous for the society as a whole. A positive change can be brought in a society when most of its members adopt the culture of reading. A research finding concludes that people who read regularly are more empathetic towards their fellow beings and are more willing to help others. Reading culture also raises societal awareness on pressing global issues such as climate change, pandemics, changing global dynamics of conflicts, politics and its global implications, and so on. In this way, general awareness about these issues can change the behaviours of people in many ways, which is necessary to make them responsible citizens.
Unfortunately, the culture of reading books is diminishing in Pakistan. It is shocking to know from the findings of a Gallup survey that 75% of Pakistanis admitted not reading any books at all. Only 9% were genuine readers.
There are many causes of this fading culture.
First, the advancement of digital technologies has made people addicted to social media platforms and entertainment apps, e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube, where they spend too much time. They do not spare time for reading books.
Second, poor economic conditions in the country have caused the skyrocketing prices of paper, which, coupled with higher printing costs, affects the availability of books and if some are made available, they have high prices. Many bibliophiles (book-lovers) find it difficult to buy their fave books.
Third, a scant number of libraries in Pakistan is, perhaps, the biggest obstruction in the promotion of a reading culture. Thousands of students do not have libraries in their schools and colleges.
Fourth, the education system of the country is not conducive to producing great readers. Teachers and parents value only high marks obtained in the exams as high grades are necessary to get admission to desired disciplines in prestigious colleges and universities of the country, or even abroad. Due to that reason, students are made to concentrate on textbooks only. They hardly read anything other than their course books, although those can diversify their knowledge and enhance their intelligence.
A culture of reading is essential for bringing positive change in society. The following measures must be taken in order to promote the culture of reading.
First, the government should establish more and more public libraries in every city, town and village in the country. Schools and colleges must have modern libraries with adequate facilities.
Second, teachers must pay attention to inculcating a habit of reading in their students by involving them in, for example, discussions on books. Teachers should spread awareness among students about the importance of reading various kinds of books.
Third, parents must adopt a reading culture if they want to inculcate the habit of reading in their kids. Parents should make personal libraries in their homes. They should have regular discussions on books in front of their children. This will help create a habit of book reading in children.
Fourth, book festivals should be arranged, with the help of publishers, at least at the district level. In these festivals, books on various subjects such as natural sciences, social sciences, arts and literature should be made available at cheaper prices.
Fifth, small libraries should be established in shopping malls, bus stands, railway stations, airports and public and private offices. A significant number of people will use their waiting time in reading books. Hence, these small libraries will help foster a reading culture.
Sixth, book corners should inform readers about new books by advertising with colourful and catchy posters at various places. Advertisements must contain a summary of new books.
Seventh, books should be exchanged as gifts on birthdays, marriage ceremonies, and at parties.
The writer has a master’s degree in chemistry. He is also a qualifier of PCS (Sindh) 2018.