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Social media fuels poor reading culture

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By Usman Oladimeji

Widespread use of the internet has led to a decline in reading habits.

Former National Librarian/Chief Executive Officer of the National Library of Nigeria, Prof. Lenrie Aina, expressed dismay in 2020 over Nigeria’s status as one of the countries with the lowest reading culture worldwide, as reported by World Culture Statistics. Also, recent data from the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) reveals that 38% of Nigerians lack formal education and 40% of primary school students struggle with reading comprehension. Despite the alarming findings of the NOP World Culture Score Index, there are certain book enthusiasts who predict that Nigeria’s cultural standing will have worsened in 2024 if similar statistics are published.

According to them, Nigeria’s lack of interest in reading is not primarily due to the high number of illiterate people, but rather a reluctance fuelled by the influence of technology. Expressing his opinion on the matter, entrepreneur and book enthusiast, Mr. Komolafe Ajayi suggested that the reading habits in Nigeria were actually better when the literacy rate was lower. In the past, previous generations enjoyed reading classics from Shakespeare and Dickens, but today’s Gen Z and Gen Alpha seem to have lost interest in reading. Ajayi shared his experience of running a social media experiment where he presented young people with a choice between 10GB of mobile data or a captivating book worth five thousand naira.

Lack of interest in reading hinders critical thinking skills.

He mentioned that over 90% of those surveyed preferred mobile data. His analysis suggested that a generation with heavy reliance on electronic devices and social media, focused on trivial matters, may seem sophisticated but lack substance. Educators caution that a lack of interest in reading is hindering younger individuals from developing critical thinking and analytical skills, preventing them from becoming fully developed individuals. Developing a strong reading habit is believed to enhance focus and attention span, provide deeper insight into our surroundings, and equip individuals with essential life skills, according to book enthusiasts.

Experts contend that reading serves as a means for individuals of various ages to connect and venture into fresh concepts, as well as enhance writing skills. A psychologist and the author of children’s books, Dr. Fatima Akilu, pointed out that the decrease in Nigeria’s reading habits can be attributed to the lack of encouragement and support for a positive reading environment within educational institutions. Akilu initiated The 100-Book Challenge in primary schools in Abuja with the goal of promoting a culture of reading. He believes that Nigeria’s educational system places excessive emphasis on reading solely for the purpose of examinations.

Internet has caused a decrease in interest in reading.

She suggested that the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) revamp its national curriculum in order to better instil a culture of reading in schools. Researcher Kolajo Susan and Agbetuyi Abike stated that the widespread use of the internet and digital media has led to a decline in reading habits. They concluded that the internet has caused a decrease in interest in reading physical materials, as well as a reduction in vocabulary, general knowledge, and open-mindedness that comes from regular reading habits.

Meanwhile, some other experts argue that the responsibility cannot solely rest on the shoulders of young people and schools. They believe that parents, who play a crucial role in shaping their children’s values, should also take responsibility for not cultivating a love for reading in their children as a recreational activity. High Speed Training (HST), a UK organization focused on education, stated that in environments where a culture of reading is present, children engage in voluntary reading regularly. In such a situation, children will eagerly participate and look forward to the enjoyment that comes with immersing themselves in a book.

Related Article: Nigeria losing reading culture, ex-ambassador

A recent study from the National Literacy Trust, referenced by HST, emphasized the importance of forming a lifelong reading habit by engaging in a community that values and enjoys reading. Parents and the home environment play a crucial role in cultivating a passion for books. Those passionate about books believe that in the midst of families struggling to stay afloat, nurturing a reading culture at home will face significant challenges. Yet, they emphasize that promoting Nigeria’s reading culture is a crucial endeavor that all involved parties must prioritize to prevent a generation of educated illiterates.

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