The dying reading culture

Family literacy day,  an annual event aimed at raising awareness for the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy activities as a family was marked on Sunday last week. The day almost went unnoticed in the media except for a highlight by one TV station on Martha Karua’s presence in a function at Kawangware Primary School in Nairobi.

The presidential aspirant encouraged the pupils to work hard. Good advice indeed – but how often do young people engross themselves in books outside the classroom? How often do we read for our own self development?

English poet Samuel Johnson put it succinctly – that one should read as inclination leads him. The author further advises young people to dedicate at least five hours to books in order to acquire a great deal of knowledge.

Another inspiration for reading comes from history’s notable military hero Alexander the Great. He did not only conquer many lands but read a great deal too. He was so much in love with Homer’s Illiad that he knew it by heart and regarded it as a ‘portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge.’

When his tutor Aristotle published some of the profound philosophical teachings that he had taught him, Alexander was furious. He wrote to the philosopher that he would rather ‘excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of power and dominion.’

Today, such passion for books; such quest for intellectual nourishment especially among young people is dissipating.  Blame it on ‘cut and paste’ trend and addiction to social media.

I recall with nostalgia those days when tech gizmos were absent, when studious reading habit was prevalent. Those were the days when you could not miss inspect a dog eared copy of The Drum, True Love and The Readers Digest in a salon or kinyozi especially in the countryside.

The Moses series quenched our appetite regularly in primary school. The aim was to sharpen our English language kills – but the texts did more. They also shaped our careers.

Technological advancement has even made it easier. Books are now available in digital formats, downloadable from the internet.

You will expect our generation to be reaping bountifully from this development. It however seems to be a curse – young people spend much time filling their minds with filth while browsing the internet.

Our higher learning institutions, which are supposed to be the kilns for baking intellectual bricks, are slowly turning into grade mines. Students read only when it is assigned as a task. They read only to pass exams but not to imbibe knowledge for intellectual nourishment.

Libraries are lonely place except during exam time. Imagine reading a whole semester’s work within a few hours to exam time. Or researching and preparing a PowerPoint presentation that is a few minutes past due date.

For those who fail to beat deadlines, there are many excuses. Often, it is about the computer – how it crashed just seconds before the student could ‘click on the ‘print’ icon and accomplish the task.

Gone are the days when university students articulated key concepts in their academic province with clarity and competence. Those days seem to have gone with the falling of the Berlin wall – as one writer posited.

The young scholar is no longer the epitome of intellectual rigor. With much focus on good grades, the scholar has perfected the art of shortcuts just to color the transcript.

It is seldom in his genuine interest to feed his spirit with the bread of books or quench his thirst at the wells of thought.

Indeed, we are a Facebook, Google and Wikipedia generation. A ‘cut and paste generation’. Shall we really have anything substantial to show when ‘posterity will vainly ask for proof of our intellectual merit?’

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One Comment on “The dying reading culture”

  1. Shiwomwenyo Shelikita Says:

    is the culture of reading among young people dieying and if so,, what could be the reason..please email the answer

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