FOR some of us who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, when the Internet was still a futuristic thought and we were still unaware of mobile phones, computers meant playing around with MS Paint and communication with distant relatives or friends meant using the now-obsolete device called landline. However, we could let our imagination run wild and free as we read James Hadley Chase, Bloodline series and the Pacesetters. We also solved mysteries with Robert Ludlum too. We learnt to be expressive as we wrote letters to connect with our pen pals and spent time meeting our friends.
And then, all of a sudden, the mind blowing Internet and ‘cellular’ phones happened to us! These technological wonders caught on with the everyday citizen swiftly. As the age of the Internet dawned on us and our affinity towards mobile devices grew, we unknowingly walked down a path of new discovery filled with its own flaws. Slowly but surely, we started to understand these technologies as they became an inseparable part of our lives. On their part, mobile and internet technology advanced in leaps and bounds to bring the world in our palms. While the internet continues to grow exponentially, the amount of people reading print publications is steadily declining. Out of the three main categories of media, which include print, broadcast and internet, print is now the least used. Specifically, this applies to newspapers, magazines, and books. But then, we cannot refuse technology nor can we discard a medium of true knowledge. Therefore, the onus is now on us to find the middle ground.
Speaking on how the rise in technology affected our reading culture, Mrs Ilonze Catherine, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology in a private university said: “From time immemorial, books have been a reflection of the wonder of the human mind. Through books, we have immortalised human history, culture, science, literature, arts and most of what we know today. The written word not only invigorates the mind; it expands our imagination and makes us breach our boundaries.
Hence, reading is an important and undeniable part of human existence. But as we have evolved technologically, in the new millennium to be specific, somewhere along the line, we have lost touch with the reader in us. No, we have not lost all the book lovers and bibliophiles but we have endangered our future generations with the overuse of social media and entertainment media platforms in current times. The advancement of the internet and smartphones over the past 10 years has been abrupt and incredibly fast.
So, due to technological development, reading habits are changing. In our society today, while technology is slowly taking steady control over individual lives, the reading habit is fast vanishing into thin air. Students now lack the skill of reading. Instead, they spend more hours on the internet, browsing the net, playing with funky handsets. Passing non-stop SMSs and chatting with friends seems to be the order of the day, thereby making reading a book or any other piece of written material in a quiet or peaceful corner of a library or home become an archaic idea for most school children and adults. But then, the truth remains that children cannot achieve unless they raise their expectations and slow down on electronic gadgets. This is because active learning from books is better than passive learning such as watching television and playing games.
Nowadays also, students are rarely interested in reading for pleasure and enjoyment, instead they read-only to pass examinations. The declining interest in reading culture among our children (especially those in primary and secondary schools) is a cause for alarm and a challenge to all and something needs to be done to alleviate this yawning problem. Unfortunately, reading is not taught or included in the school curriculum. Reading is not a subject and cannot be taught separately as most other subjects in the curriculum; rather, it is subsumed in every other subject and is regarded as a tool facilitating many other types of learning. These days, due to the rat race syndrome, parents pay little or no attention to their children’s reading ability. But even those parents themselves lack the skill and the culture of reading such that some do not read to their kids.
My candid advice is that the government, through the education authorities and indeed all Nigerian schools should launch a readership promotion campaign that will help to inculcate the culture of reading in children. It is also important to start early to inculcate the culture of reading early enough in a child. This will start from home, where parents should actually make out time to read to their kids every now and then. Parents also should help their children to understand the importance of reading books for pleasure, not just to pass examinations.
In those days, parents used to buy novels for their children, apart from the ones they read in their schools. But these days, you see most parents instead of buying these novels; they buy phones and take it to phone technicians to install game appliances for their children. But when parents learn to buy books for their children, help them to read them, it is a good way to start teaching children the importance of reading culture.
Again, speaking on the importance of print book reading over internet reading, Mr Augustine Ezeh, a retired principal said; “Of all the skills one will ever learn while growing up; arguably none can be more important than the ability to read. Each book that you read is an opportunity to learn something new. You can expand your vocabulary, train your brain, increase wellness, lower stress, and discover something new about yourself.
Reading is very powerful and indispensable equipment for learning and acquisition of the varied skills and experiences needed by man to develop a satisfactory personal life. It is important that pupils/students should develop positive habits towards reading of books as a life-long learning experience. But then, gradually, the advent of internet has led to the development of various applications for games and chatting which has continued to take students time leaving reading books as old fashioned.
Despite the many benefits of reading on the internet, there are still many benefits of reading print books which include:
Children who read in the library either at the school or at home tend to do better academically.Students who have books at home are more likely to score higher on tests. This is because having books at home encourages children to read for fun and talk to their parents about what they have learned, which only stands to benefit them in the classroom.
Children who are made to read books at home tend to become better readers. Another study of young children between the ages of three and five revealed that kids have lower comprehension of the story when their parents read to them from an e-book as opposed to a print book. Researchers theorise this arises because children get distracted by the electronic device and have a harder time focusing on the story itself. In another study, students who had read a short story on an e-reader were less engaged and had a harder time remembering the exact order of events.
Again, print book readers are less likely to get distracted:Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who read e-books tend to get sidetracked more easily, but not just because the internet is right at their fingertips. Digital readers tend to spend more time scanning for keywords than actually processing what they are reading. But with a print book, there is no chance of getting distracted by links or getting sucked down an internet rabbit hole of looking up the collective term for a group of ferrets.