Sunday, August 7, 2022

Don’t view reading as a hobby; it’s much more than that

Reading is a hobby/interest for many.

Almost everyone will list reading as a hobby, even if that reading means the mediocrity of a tabloid newspaper or gossip magazine.

I am very wary of sly readers. The type who will claim to have read a book when they saw the movie or read a preview somewhere.

Please, call me an intellectual, literary snob. I am one. My housemate once remarked nonchalantly that I must be bored if I could actually see myself reading.
Well, I don’t hold her in high esteem and I wasn’t surprised (I have never engaged in a stimulating conversation with her).

In a world where information is a click away and minds have been reduced to empty shells of alternative info, I feel disheartened that our reading culture continues to idle somewhere between resurrection and extinction.

It still pains me that in order to engage in fruitful conversation about literature, I have to seek a “certain type” of people in my community or non-Africans.

These stereotypes, though not a general perspective, tend to ring true when you acknowledge the falling standards of young people’s intellectual levels and general knowledge. Anyone with an interest in learning and reading is termed a nerd.

Well, in the bigger perspective nerds are cool.

The culture of reading needs to be cultivated in homes and schools. Perhaps children do not do well in their studies or rise above their own expectations because of limited knowledge .I am in no way saying that reading will develop miracles but it can surely develop certain skills which are essential to not only personal and emotional but also social development and awaken the mind and brain.

A journalist at this very paper once remarked that there are numerous journalists who do not read. I concur with that for the idle culture exists in many spaces where we have material out there but even people tasked with being exemplary do not read, especially in African communities.
Conscious active reading opens up the reader to alternative thought and perspective, information, words, phrases and personalities. In other societies, books and words are sacred and respected but in our communities it seems pop culture is at the helm of things reducing minds to isolated carbon copies of a culture that has its history infixed in nothingness.

Our literary landscapes are uncultivated and still a struggling sphere in this day in age. Even though writers are held in high esteem their work is not highly recognized, studied and celebrated in that they become passing elements of our history and present. The days of writing rooted in politics and socio economic chant are gone; there is a huge array of writers who have continued to explore everything from mystery to frivolous fiction and the lot.

An acquaintance of mine, who happens to work in a bookstore, said to me that young Africans lie in the category of people who do not read and even if they do, they rarely identify with their African writers or actually buy books or engage in conversations that may be stimulating to their intellectual maturity.

The ones who use the services of bookstores and libraries do so solely for study material and not for the interest of learning, self research or gaining more information, while a very few actually have interest in general reading as an interest.

The debate became heated and in the end I realized some of her points were relevant. We lack a reading culture. In some homes, children are still scolded or humiliated for reading as it is viewed as useless.

I do not see how we want to reduce ourselves and our kind to the rubble of mediocre where small talk and gay chatter peppers our existence and we get caught in the hype of small personality clashes. History is captured in books and so the present is, so it can be disseminated by future generations.

I honestly believe our distorted perception of our reality, our history and functionality is rooted in a lack of reading. If we do not take the initiative to do self research and learn for ourselves about an array of issues we will remain stuck in dogmatic thought and see history repeat itself (caught up in a cycle).

As Africans our culture is constantly being eroded and run by foreign people. It is as if we lack initiative, knowledge and ability. Even books by our own musicians, artists and famed personalities are written by no-Africans in many cases…on top of that they are usually bought by them.

It’s as if we do not want to entangle ourselves from this self prison we find ourselves in and later turn around and lay blame on others. Can we afford to continue being victims of our own ignorance, lack of interest, knowledge and education ?Our beliefs and ideas harm us in many ways, if we cannot stand up and challenge ourselves and push ourselves beyond what we assume to be the beginning and end. It’s more like organizing your own funeral and jumping into your coffin when you are done.

Perhaps adults misconceive their influence in the make up of young people. We’ve adopted ways which are not ours where my child is my child to the point that no one can render help where it’s needed. Every adult from the school to the home must develop reading for reading is very close to learning too.

At least we can leave a legacy of knowledge. This must be lifestyle where reading, is a must and not a luxury or once off hobby. Pardon my arrogance but I often wonder what occupies the little spaces that life and time throw at us. In between television, cyber networking, socializing etc.
Perhaps that is where teenage pregnancies, HIV infections, alcoholism, obesity, suicides and other social problems we encounter stem from. To fix the mini horror of idleness, a book would do very well.

It still baffles me how a literate person can go through a week…a month, years or a lifetime without having picked up a book and enjoyed it.


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