Northern Nigerian Breaking News

How social media is exacerbating Nigeria’s poor reading culture

By Kayode Adebiyi

In 2020, Prof. Lenrie Aina, former National Librarian/Chief Executive Officer of the National Library of Nigeria (NLN), decried Nigeria’s ranking as one of the lowest reading culture countries of the world, according to World Culture Statistics.

Aina, a professor of Library and Information Science, made the unpleasant revelation when the NLN donated books to 37 custodial centres in the 36 states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“There is what is called World Culture Statistics that tries to measure arts of reading all over the world. In the statistics, only two African countries were listed amongst countries that are reading. These countries are South Africa and Egypt; Nigeria was not among these countries.

“As a matter of fact, Nigeria was rated as one of the lowest in terms of reading culture in the world. This has prompted us to see that we try to make Nigerians read,” he said.

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Also, recent figures from the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education show that 38 per cent of Nigerians are unschooled, while four in 10 primary school children cannot read for comprehension.

The 2014 index that Aina cited showed India as the country that read the most, with over 10 hours per week.

Thailand and China were second and third respectively, with 9.24 and 8 hours per week.

As alarming as the NOP World Culture Score Index appears, some book enthusiasts believe that if similar data were to be released in 2024, Nigeria would have declined even further.

They, however, say that what is fuelling Nigeria’s poor reading culture has more to do with technology-inspired unwillingness rather than the percentage of Nigeria’s unlettered population.

Mr Komolafe Ajayi, an entrepreneur and book enthusiast, shared his view concerning Nigeria’s poor reading culture, saying “If you observe, our reading culture was better when our literacy level was even lower. 30, 40 years ago, do we have the number of graduates that we have now? No.

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“But our fathers were reading William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and other books then while our GenZ and GenAlpha nowadays don’t read. Even Millennials who came before those two generations don’t read,” he said.

He also narrated how he conducted a social experiment on Facebook asking young people to choose between 10 GB of mobile data and an interesting book worth five thousand naira. “More than 90 per cent of respondents chose mobile data,” he said.

He concluded that a generation that lives almost its entire life on electronic devices and social media engaging in frivolities risks appearing sophisticated yet empty.

Educationists warn that poor reading culture is depriving the younger generation of becoming well-rounded individuals who can think critically and analytically.

They say other benefits of a good reading culture include improved attention span and focus, a better understanding of the world around us, as well as furnishing the reader with critical life skills.

According to experts, reading also creates opportunities for people of all ages to come together and explore new ideas and it improves expression through writing.

Dr Fatima Akilu, a psychologist and children’s books author, said one of the reasons Nigeria’s reading culture declined is the failure to promote and stimulate good reading culture in schools.

Akilu, who founded The 100-Book Challenge among primary schools in Abuja to encourage reading, said Nigeria’s curriculum design focuses too much on reading for tests and exams.

She also said the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) should completely overhaul its outdated national curriculum to enable it to promote reading culture in schools.

Researchers, Kolajo Susan and Agbetuyi Abike say that the proliferation of internet and digital media have changed reading habits and as such it is fast disappearing into the thin air.

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They also found that the internet seems to have reduced the interest in reading printed materials, vocabulary development, general knowledge and broadmindedness which individuals get from having good reading habits.

Their study entitled “Dwindling Reading Culture in the Internet Era and the imperative for Life Long Reading” was published in Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal).

However, some experts say all the blame should not be placed on only youths and the education system.

They say parents as the first agents of socialisation are also guilty of not putting their children’s feet on the path of reading as a form of leisure.

High Speed Training (HST), a UK-based resource hub, said “Where a reading culture exists, children read of their own free will, on a regular basis. They are willing and active participants, who anticipate the satisfaction they’ll get from picking up a book.”

A report by the National Literacy Trust, quoted by HST, also said that “If reading is to become a lifelong habit, then people must see themselves as participants in a community that views reading as a significant and enjoyable activity.

“Parents and the home environment are essential in fostering a love of reading.”

Book enthusiasts agree that, with many households grappling with how to keep their heads above water, it will be difficult for reading culture to be fostered from home.

However, they warn that improving Nigeria’s reading culture is a sacrifice all stakeholders should be willing to make if the country wants to avoid a vibrant youth population of educated illiterates. 



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