If we think about it, all that a university or final highest school can do for us, is still but what the first school began doing- teach us how to read.

Thomas Carlyle, a historian, Philosopher and Biographer.

My sister has a ‘natural hunger’ to read, she reads anything she can get her hands on. One time my mother and I were having a conversation and my sister passed by and our attention quickly shifted to her; she was standing in the middle of the house with a newspaper in one hand and a mug of whatever beverage she was having in the other. She seemed deeply engrossed in the article she was reading, completely unaware of her surroundings. My mother and I looked at each other, I shrugged and my mom simply smiled. We looked back at her, a curious human, devouring line after line and when she was done, she looked up to find two pairs of eyes on two puzzled faces staring back at her. Her face went blank. She then left the room. I was fascinated.

Funny thing, she does this all the time. My mom and I aren’t that much into reading but I would say that my sister takes after my father. My father is a reader, if I may call him that. He reads pretty much anything he considers useful and interesting. The fact that both of these people are so much engrossed in what they read all the time is a little puzzling.

This reading culture got me thinking after I read my friend’s article, “No books, please- We are Kenyan!(laughing emoji)” available at https://memoirsofgama.wordpress.com. For those Tom and Jerry fans, there is an episode where Tom is mailed a book titled ‘How to Catch a Mouse’. In it, one trick involves making Jerry the mouse very curious by pretending to read a book and laughing so as to draw him out of his hole. Essentially, the trick does work seeing as Jerry comes out to find Tom reading an ‘interesting’ book and wants to see what it is that makes Tom laugh out loud. I would say that probably most of us were too little back then to understand the hidden meaning behind it, if it actually is.

Out of curiosity, I went on to Google and typed ‘Kenyans and the reading culture’ and boy was I surprised. Article after article, from newspapers to personal blogs depicted a lack of a reading culture. I found one article to be particularly interesting. According to Justus Mbae (available at http://africa.peacelink.org/wajibu/articles/art_4487.html) one of the reasons, which he thinks doubles as an excuse, is the African reliance on spoken word. He goes on to state that having no diaries and writing material to jot down important things, Africans relied on committing things to memory; and gives an example where everyone knew their genealogy by heart and recited it often. That is impressive if you ask me.

Another reason he points out is laziness. This, I could relate to. He goes on to give an example of his own daughter who is in one of the institutions of higher learning in Kenya and cannot read a book outside her prescribed course textbooks. Her answer was that ‘she just does not like reading because it takes too much of her time’, even though the author noticed that she has a lot of time to watch television programs. The author continues to state that by implication, watching telly and videos does not consume time in the same way that reading does. This makes sense if you look at it keenly, but her argument seems to imply that she would watch all that stuff that is in books if only it could be presented on TV or in video form.

When I began writing, I figured out that making the article too long ‘bores’ some readers, so I tried to make them short but as interesting as I could. I did this even without being told, so how did I guess that? Why did I think like that? Don’t get me wrong, there are programs that are really ‘educational’ like National Geographic, which I really enjoy watching. However, what the author was trying to put across is that reading is hard work, and most of the young people in our generation just aren’t cut out for it. Comparing watching videos to reading the same material, reading requires discipline, patience and sacrifice; compared to watching videos and programs that requires no effort at all.

So, whose fault is it? In my opinion, placing blame doesn’t really help at all. However, it is very interesting how our education system takes around 15 years averagely, give or take yet when we emerge as degree or diploma holders we can barely read a book outside what may constitute our work or school course books. By now, at 15 or 22 years of age, it should not require anyone to explain the advantages of reading. Books are now accessible online, which makes it easier to access. They may not necessarily be that expensive, walking the streets of Nairobi attests to that fact. While not every book is educational, we get to choose which books we get to read, and that’s a plus! So I will not say that reading comes easy, but by choosing what you read, you can make it interesting and actually get to enjoy it.                                                                                                                          

So go out there, save some money and get a book. Learn how to exchange books instead of buying every time you need a new read. Go to any library and see if you can borrow one, share books and encourage children and young people alike to read every once in a while. Let us make Kenya a reading nation!

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  1. Haha! It could, as well, have been written by him, so many people had the same thoughts, and I am…

  2. Thank you! I am kinda sad that we were unable to keep writing for such a long time. However, we…

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