Reading Nations Are Leading Nations: Whither Nigeria – Prof Shittu Kelani Okunade
Reading stimulates the imagination, while also encouraging quick learning, and expanding horizons. It encourages imagination and curiosity. Reading enhances acquisition of skills for handling complex ideas or issues. Also, it is the mother of strategic planning.
“But it is frightening how this practice, which used to be common among Nigerian students, youths and even adults, is fast eroding in our society at a speed faster than a jet,” said Prof Shittu Kelani Okunade, at the 69th Inaugural Lecture of the Federal University of Technology Minna (FUTMINNA), in Niger State.
Speaking on the topic: “Reading nations are leading nations: Whither Nigeria?” Okunade decried the poor reading culture in the country.
“Nigeria was rated, not too long ago by the World Culture Score Index (WCSI) as one of the countries in the world that has the lowest reading culture. A recent survey on hours of reading per week/person by the WCSI showed that India leads other nations in reading with a score of 10.42 hours per week/person, followed by Thailand with 9.24 hours and China having eight hours. Only two African countries, Egypt occupying fifth position (with 7.30 hours) and South Africa at 15th (with 6.18 hours) were listed in the survey, with Nigeria not being listed at all.
“According to a study carried out by Henry (2004), about 40 percent of adult Nigerians never read a non-fiction book from cover to cover after they finish school. While the average Nigerian reads less than one book per year,” said the Professor of English.
Underscoring the importance of adopting a good reading culture, Okunade said that leading nations of the world prided themselves in their promotion of reading for intellectual growth and national advancement.
“A reading nation is an informed nation. Nigeria cannot be regarded as a reading nation because the younger generation of Nigerians does not consider reading a leisure activity.The poor reading habits of these younger Nigerians affect their performances at school and during examinations. Children with poor reading habits may engage in anti-social behaviours such as rioting, bullying and examination malpractice. These set of children receive poor grades at school, get easily distracted and frustrated, have behavioural problems, seem to dislike school, and often fail to develop to their full potential’’, he said.
To develop good reading culture, Okunade advised early introduction of children to books, reading contests, establishment of classroom libraries, and training of teachers who will teach the children how to read.
The inaugural speaker observed that since Nigeria was yet to move from 40-45 percent current literacy rate, there was need to passionately promote the culture of reading that could create a network of like minds that can contribute to national development.
“The ability to read is an art which is capable of transforming life and society. No society or nation can dream of meaningful developments if its citizens cannot read. An educated citizenry can be easily mobilized for political, social, economic and technological development. Reading therefore is the bedrock of national transformation and development’’, the don said.
Highlighting the individual benefits of active reading, Okunade said: ‘’Reading improves vocabulary, gives a glimpse into other cultures and places, improves concentration and focus, builds self-esteem, improves discipline, improves creativity, enables one to contribute to various discussions, improves reasoning skills, builds expertise, decreases mistakes, decreases boredom, reduces stress, improves writing skills, gets one away from digital distractions, change ones’ life, makes one to discover surprises and can attracts additional money.’’