April 23 of every year, World Book and Copyright Day, also known as World Book Day, is commemorated. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is responsible for organizing the events of the day for promotion of reading, publishing and copyright. During this celebration, UNESCO and international organizations comprising publishers, booksellers and libraries choose the World Book Capital for a year to ensure maintenance of the impulse of the day’s commemoration through its initiatives.
According to UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, books are vital vehicles necessary for accessibility, transmission and promotion of education, culture, science and information across the world. April 23 is a symbolic date in the world of literature as it marks the death anniversary of prominent authors like Williams Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. UNESCO’s General Conference, held in 1995 also chose this date to pay a global tribute to books and authors, while urging everyone to access books.
New book titles released annually are about 4 million.
UNESCO’s theme for 2023’s World Book Day is “Indigenous Languages”. In 2022, the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-32), a UN priority, began. The United Nations is concerned about upholding and promoting linguistic diversity and multilingualism. The World Book Capital Network Charter embraces local and indigenous languages to feature in it. It also recognizes various forms of literature, including oral traditions. Therefore, the Charter can be said to accept the less rigid concept of “the book”.
There are about 7,000 existing languages in the world, many of which are rapidly going into extinction. Majority of these languages are spoken by indigenous people representing the wider part of the global cultural diversity. The rapid rise in the number and adoption of digital devices and social media platforms, traditional practices of reading and writing have had to adapt to a lot of changes. It is now easier for people to access literature content through E-books, audio books and online reading. Globally, the estimated number of new book titles released annually is about 4 million.
Challenges of the culture of reading in Nigeria.
Nigeria seems like the country with the largest number of publishing houses in Africa but without a vibrant industry. The country’s reading culture has seriously declined over the years as a result of limited access to books, insufficient educational resources and preference for other mediums of entertainment. Many Nigerians lack easy access to libraries and bookstores but when they do, the books are usually very expensive to purchase. Also, many Nigerian schools do not have libraries and those that do either have outdated books or insufficient books.
Another challenge hindering the progress of Nigeria’s reading culture is the focus on academic reading and neglect of leisure reading. This act, imposed by Nigerian schools and universities, makes Nigerian students uninterested in reading beyond academic requirements. Poor reading habits which stifle creativity and thinking have also have negative impacts on the country and its citizens. Some of its effects include limited access to knowledge, poor academic performance, reduced employability, limited growth and even reduced national development.
Promoting the reading culture among Nigerians.
Regardless of the aforementioned reading challenges in the country, there are still Nigerians who heartily subscribe to the reading culture; this is evident in the many libraries, book stores and literary events in the country. The process of boosting reading habits in Nigeria might be challenging but there are diverse ways through which individuals and organizations can ensure promotion of the reading culture in the country. They include establishment of public libraries, promotion of reading clubs, provision of reading materials, organization of reading programs, and leveraging technology.