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Opinions of Friday, 5 October 2007

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Poor Reading Habit, The Enemy Of Our Civilization.

Napoleon Hill once wrote in his ‘The Master Key to Riches ‘ book , one’s reading program should be as carefully planned as his/ her daily diet, for that too is food; without it one cannot mentally developed.”

Ah, Reading!

All right, in times like these where flood has taken over major part of the Northern Ghana, a write up on reading may not be an important issue to the majority, but can we do without it? In the olden days ‘wealth’ and power were measured in land size, quantity of gold and other material things. Contemporary economy wealth of successful nations is increasingly derived from one’s ability to have a laser-like memory and mega-byte ability to recall information and apply it to solve real life problems.

The issue is how much reading does the Ghanaian do? Not too much. Thanks to TV, Cell Phone, Internet and Ipod.

“What?”. Hold on! Don’t start yelling. I bet I just lost a few of you right there .But, that is okay. I’m not against the modern day technology. My position is that we are not doing enough reading, period! Lack of time for reading has always been the excuse if not the defense for the lazy ones. We make time for every other thing except reading.

Hitherto, the argument was that we were watching too much of the television. In recent past, it was the cell phone and now the internet and the I pod. Are Ghanaians ever going to put these gargets aside and grab books? Our civilization is likely to face extinction if we do not encourage the appreciation of the culture of reading. Please do not tell me we have access to the internet therefore we can read on it .It’s simply not the same. There is nothing like holding a nice book in your hands and reading under a tree.

Here is a good exercise for you: Kindly ask any Ghanaian —both home and abroad—to name the last five books he or she has read within a period of one year. Okay make those three books. Please, I do not mean text books. You are not likely to get one book, amazing isn’t it? This sound very tacky, but it will be a great fun for you. It will also go to tell you how profitable we use our time. Asking questions like that has the tendency to put things in the proper perspective so just play along. To make it funnier without attacking the ego and intellects of the individual, grateful ask him or her to name the book he or she is currently reading. Are you sweating yet? I bet with my last cedi that nine times out of ten they are not reading anything. But, I’m not sure if they are going to feel very comfortable to let you know that.

In Ghana our reading habits stop or diminish when we complete our educational goals. But reading is good for the brain. The benefits of reading are so enormous. Read to learn new things. Read to lift your spirits. Read for entertainment. Reading a book is better than the most popular television program and far better than yakking into a plastic device all day.

Buy books and make sure you read them all. This is not a big problem for most people. Have a book in your bath room, in your bed room and one in your car. It’s always nice to have a book on hand while you wait for your car mechanics at the workshop. You can still skim through a book while waiting for the food to get cooked at the kitchen. Anytime you are reading a book which belongs to you make sure you have a highlighter to mark the parts that say something to you. Make margin notes as you read. You can also make comments and notes on one of the blank pages at the back of the book. That will help you to refer to a particular statement or quote in the pages you read. To top it all, do not forget to brag about the books you read or you are reading to your friends. It would not hurt to boost your ego .Instead, you reinforce what you’re reading and the fact that you are learning. It might encourage your friends to read something other than flip through the sport page of the local newspapers. Not bad, huh?

My caution is, be careful of what you select to read. You become a product of the ideas you associate with the most. Reading wrong books can impair your ability to grow, figuratively .Some self-help books are written just to make the publishers tons of money, instead of challenging the mind of the reader. The best-seller is not necessarily an indication of a great book. Do not limit your reading to one particular area of study. Philosophy, religion and history books are good as business and entreperurial books. Above all, your reading habit should uplift you and make you discover things you never knew about yourself and your dreams, inspiration or aspiration. In other words, read high-quality, content-rich material books to enrich your brain, to broaden your horizon to better understand this world that you and I have come too inherit.

What to do to increase the reading habits of Ghanaians: 1) The government should give financial incentive to writers and publishers to increase the production of quality reading material in the country.

2) Every town and village should be encouraged to have a well-stocked library.

3) Reading competition should be introduced in all levels of our educational system where students can earn academic credits for reading certain amount of books a term.

4) The government should encourage Ghanaians abroad to solicit for relevant used books from their host countries. I know in American schools throw away tons of books every year.

5) A national Literacy Award should be instituted to encourage books publishing, writers, readers and sellers to invest in that industry.

6) National Literacy Campaign should be launched to help people learn how to read and write.

7)A national reading hour should be instituted with the conjunction with employers to set aside one hour every week where the employees would spend one hour to do nothing, but read .Have I gone too far ? Have you thought of the number lost hours professional”lotto” Professors” spend in working lotto at the various offices at the ministry and other government departments across the country? Nope, you haven’t. The point is, making reading a national issue would do more than giving the people the chance to be very productive and active participants of the national and international debates. It would allow thousands, if not millions of Ghanaians to discover a lot of information they do not know.

8) The publishing industry should invest in programs which entice people to read constantly and religiously.

Reading can become a healthy lifetime addiction. In the developed world every successful person has a library in his house and every successful politician writes a book. Doesn’t this give us a reason to copy them? In our part of the world our veteran politicians are busy trying to recycle themselves into office than writing a nice book for the next generation to read.

That would be a win, win situation for the nation‘s and individuals’ development. After all, no one gets hurt by doing too much reading. And, a nation full of readers would ultimately constitute a good resource pool for the development of the nation—I hope. No bi so?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Nj, USA
* Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi is a social commentator ,the chairman of Asuom Youth Club,(AYC) A founder of the Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment and Educational foundation and Apprenticeship programs; to help the Youth of Asuom ,in the Kwaebibirim district.


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