It was my second year in the university; the atmosphere was intense so much that everyone was feeling hot in a room saturated with Air conditioners. My GES201 (Use of English 2) lecturer just dished out three literature for our civil engineering folks to digest, which will be discussed the following week. To my lecturer’s amazement, more than 50% of the class started reading the books the morning of the day we were to dissect the texts together with our tutor. Only a few were able to lay off social media and other distractions to ensure that they had a methodical burning of midnight candles over the texts. Students only love reading, or should I say cramming, just to pass exams. This is as sad as it sounds!
No wonder, according to a study carried out by Henry Kayuni in Nigeria, he revealed that 40 percent of Nigerians do not lay their hands on a book after graduating from school. He also stated that an average citizen of the country reads less than a book every 365 days.1 Statistics from ‘This day’ newspaper extracted from ‘the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education,’ revealed that at the grassroots level, 4 in every 10 primary school students cannot read for comprehension.2 Lamentably, this acrid development is a worrying challenge the nation seems to be downplaying.
According to Alex-Nmecha Juliet, a PhD holder at the University of Port Harcourt, reading culture can be defined as the conventional habit of making reading a regular activity, and hence the cultivation of attitude and mastering of skills that will facilitate reading to be enjoyable, consistent, and perpetual.3 In summary, reading culture refers to the customary and regular reading of conglomerate of books and information materials.4
CAUSES OF DECLINE IN READING CULTURE
The leading factor causing the decadence of reading culture is the Deficient Education System. In a report by the United Nations, more than 130 million children who are enrolled in schools cannot read and write (UNICEF, 2015).5 This conveys that the quality of education in schools, especially in developing countries constitutes to poor reading culture. Whatever a child has been feed with in his early days, without doubt, will become a lifestyle over time. Nigeria’s education system is deficient in bringing to light the habit of intensive reading amongst students. The system does not prioritize reading; rather it gives value to passing examinations. Consequently, students resort to cramming to pass tests or examinations because some lectures even want students to write verbatim what he/she had relayed to them. This is an unhealthy approach to reading and it should be discouraged without apology.
Also, the socio-cultural environment is another key factor. One of the reasons people spend luxury of time outside the perimeter of reading in this part of the world is because the act of reading is not deeply rooted in the socio-cultural setup in most of the African nations. The Africa Society is obviously not a reading society, but a community dominated by chatting and social media.6 Gone are the days when the command of literature is prominent amongst the Africans.
Furthermore, the presence of few well-equipped libraries also contributes to the decline in reading culture. It is regretful to discover that the bulk of books in most libraries in higher institutions or public libraries are out-of-date or antiquated. Even those that have updated resources or materials lack the availability in abundance. Students will have to till the ground before he/she could find textbooks that address some unique set of newly added topics in the curriculum.
Going forward, poverty is another torn in the flesh. In a community where there is poor educational system and the absence of well-equipped libraries, poverty can also contribute to poor reading culture. Establishing a reading culture entails accessibility to resources both online and printed. It requires buying and reading as many books or reading materials as possible which will demand lots of costs. Records from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics show that most Nigerians are living in abject poverty. Many can barely afford to feed themselves, let alone purchase books to read.7
THE WAY FORWARD
A community without good reading culture can be likened to a tree with poor soil needed for proper germination. Poor reading culture creates a knowledge gap in the society and impedes growth and development, as well as hampers the self-improvement of an individual. Here are some strategies in strata to combat poor reading culture in the society we have found ourselves.
The Role of the Government
First, the system of education should be revived from being an examination-oriented system to one soaked with a knowledge-oriented structure that projects beyond having its sole importance being attached to grades or certifications. Research works that include intensive reading and studying of diverse books should be reinforced. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world,” many mysteries can only be unraveled when genres of books are consulted.
The Role of the Schools
It is imperative that schools should be flowing with libraries filled with books and lots of educational materials needed to travel without moving the feet. We can all acquiesce that the discussion on reading culture will be an incomplete chronology without attributing to the critical roles of libraries. The art of reading which later transits to be a culture is a gradual process that could be enhanced with the availability of well-stocked libraries strategically located and accessible to all.
Also, at the elementary level, schools should make it mandatory for students to read a given number of literary books in a term. In addition, organizing interclass reading competitions ought to be encouraged and a forum like “Book Club” should be created where students can have the first-hand opportunity to relate the stories they have read in a book with each other. The outstanding readers should be given appraisal and rewarded substantially either in a monetary way or in kind to inspire them and arouse the interest of others.
The Role of the Parents
Parents should take it as a primary responsibility to embolden their children to cultivate a positive attitude towards reading. In that regard, parents will include in their budgets, the funds for purchasing books and other reading materials for their children. In the home, there should be a reading room where books are plucked for knowledge sake when needed. Learning from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” It is no doubt that consistent reading of books expands the intellect. Just like many literary legends have professed, the path to success many people are looking for can be found in books.
The Role of the individuals
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin
It should be reiterated repeatedly in the mind of all without apology that reading culture is a major ingredient to stand out in the world we have found ourselves. Understanding the science of great inventories by the heroes of the past can only be accessed through books. Anyone that desires to reciprocate such feat must be ready to diligently invest time perusing books and studying diligently because knowledge is power. Adequate time should be dedicated to reading well-nourished books rather than spending luxury of time on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp or playing video games or watching movies.
THE IMPORTANCE OF READING CULTURE
Anytime I read on how the likes of Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Albeit Einstein, and the host of others that have transformed the world for good, I submit to nature that the words of Jim Rohn hold true that, “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” Reading has the ability to take a man into the future. Reading culture enhances the development of the community and creates a system of vibrant leaders.
In all, the decline in reading is a prodigious problem given the onslaught of the emergence of digital revolution. Coupled with the fact that technology has altered the disposition of humans to reading, the absence of well-equipped reading facilities, poor system of education, and negligence of parents and individuals are among the core factors impairing the reading culture in the nation.
This essay has opened our eyes of understanding that the poor reading culture which transited from primary and secondary school level has accrued over the years and degenerated into a full-blown nationwide reading problem we are experiencing now. If the solutions highlighted above are taken into consideration, the decline in reading culture will be outlived and a knowledge-based society will be established.
REFERENCES Kayuni, H. J. (2017). Effects of poor-reading culture on distance education students’ academic performance at Kwame Nkrumah University in Zambia. Journals of Humanities Social Sciences and Education (IJHSSE), 4(1), 55-63.  Addressing the Poor Reading Culture in Nigeria. Retrieved on June 1st from https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2019/03/30/addressing-the-poor-reading-culture-in-nigeria/  Alex-Nmecha, J. C., & Horsfall, M. N. (2019). Reading Culture, Benefits, and the Role of libraries in the 21st century. Library Philosophy and Practice.
 Ogugua, J. C et all (2015). Developing a reading culture in Nigerian Society: Issues and Remedies. Journal of Research in National Development, 13(1), 62-  Otache, Innocent (2020). “Poor Reading Culture in Nigeria: The Way Forward.”  Nalusiba, P. (2010). Strategies for the development of a reading culture in Uganda primary schools: case studies of four selected Universal Primary education Schools in Kampala District, (Unpublished Master’s Thesis) Makerere University, Uganda.  Fabunmi, F. A., & Folorunso, O. (2010). Poor reading culture: A barrier to students’ patronage of libraries selected secondary school in ado local government area of Ekiti-State, Nigeria. African Research Review, 4(2).
Folarin Oluwatimilehin wrote in from Abeokuta via email@example.com