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… On Reading Habits

“To have a habit of reading means living life…” once said famous writer William Somerset Maugham. Much has been said on the habits of reading but there is one point of view which asserts that people frequent reading while in stress. When in love for instance, people read or are compelled to read books they believe can solve their love problems. That’s why we say books resolve riddles or relieve stresses.  The power of reading was probably best said by Frederick Douglass: “If you once learn how to read, you’re forever more a free person.” International researches have disclosed that the economic, cultural and social changes scored in the past 20 years have been the result of the habit of reading. But from 1990 afterwards, people began spending most of their time in watching television or surfing the internet, thus resulting in the decline of time for physical and psychological buildup.

As if the diminishing reading habits were not enough, the books also began threatening the social values, further revealed the researches. Earlier books were based on and reinforced the societal norms. But later publications, the studies divulged, were mostly fictions and had a major role in spoiling the traditional culture and norms of societies, especially in the West.

A teacher and man’s best friend, a book is secretive but generously shares its knowledge. It also teaches living skills. Still, not everyone refers to books, as it demands getting familiarized.

But how can we instill in ourselves the habit of reading? Although they might take time, there are nine major points that could actually help us:
1-We need to plan time for reading, even if it is 10 minutes. Reading regularly for ten minutes everyday helps.
2- We should always take along a book to everywhere we go. This helps us to find a little time for reading, be it while waiting for a car or sitting in a coffee shop. In our society that may not be common, but it is certainly not shameful.
3- Selecting books with simple but attractive content; best if they are short and filled with suspense.
4- We should always be relaxed when reading. It is best if we allocate our most convenient leisure time for reading.
5- We should have a list of the books that we mostly need to read. Besides going according to plan, this helps us to search for those books.
6- It’s of basic importance to minimize our television and internet consumption and use that spare time to read books instead. This could be a little hard for some of us but needs to be done.
7- We should keep a record of every book we read, including excerpts of what we liked from the book if possible. That way we can go back and refer to it and at the same time it creates for us an urge to read more.
8- We need to set a day for going to the library. Sometimes, after reading just a few books, it may look to us as if we’ve read everything; so going to libraries could save us from that false sense of saturation.
9- We should maximize our goals so as to propel ourselves to read more. We should say I will read 50 books this year for instance.

Different factors can influence the habit of reading: the environment we grew in, our families, friends, availability of books and others. All these factors are thus directly related to the weakening or strengthening of the culture of reading. Due to these and other reasons, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has classified Niger, Burkina Faso, Vanuatu and Bangladesh as the countries having the lowest culture of reading with 16.5%, 24.8%, 34% and 40.6% respectively.

What about us, where do we stand? It’s important to have an appreciative approach, as it helps institutionalization. The past is a big teacher, and its appreciation plays a great role in clarifying our position and deciding on which approach to take head on. While activities being carried out to develop the habit of reading are worth encouraging, it’s also important to assess them critically.

At present, although it needs proper studies, reading habits seem to be in the right direction in our country. As a result, reading clubs are quite on the rise. What about the books that are being read? Are they conducive to our cultural, social and economic development?

The progress so far achieved in strengthening the reading habits is encouraging, but to attain the desired success there should be coordinated efforts on the part of all stakeholders involved. After all, the activities should only complementary and not overlapping.

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