AS the National Association of Libraries and Information Professionals get set to observe National Library and Information Week next week, we find it fitting to remind people about the importance of reading in our daily lives.
From a tender age, reading began as a fun activity; however, as we go through life we soon understand just how invaluable the exercise is. Benefits of reading include mental stimulation, stress reduction, increased knowledge, improved memory, vocabulary expansion, improved focus and concentration, stronger analytical thinking skills, better writing skills, tranquility and even entertainment value.
With the advent of social media, hard copy books seem less of a choice for readers – both avid and irregular. With the simple click on an app on a smartphone, people now have access to an innumerable volume of books written in different languages. They also have ready access to news and other forms of information, thus keeping them informed in a timely manner.
With Reading Month being observed in May, next week should serve as a platform to also push the envelope even further as far as getting people to read more. Greater emphasis also needs to be placed on promoting kwéyòl, especially in schools, so as to have a balance in learning. The Library Services, too, need to become more accommodating to readers’ choices of texts and other forms of media.
Ironically, our society has for too long settled for the stigma of not being well-read. Despite us having the luxury of giving birth to Nobel Prize-winning poet Sir Derek Walcott, who was regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, we have witnessed bookshops go out of business over time. Even sourcing a decent dictionary these days is a task. Meanwhile, our writers’ works sit on store shelves attracting dust.
Over the past few years, Saint Lucian students sitting English Language at CXC level have averaged between 50% and mid-60% range pass rates. Even CXC itself has expressed concerns that the informal, colloquial language that is often the norm on social media has found its way into the examination room. That’s right: LOL, IDK and IHU are now permanent features in CSEC exams.
Quite often, the defense against reading often rests on people finding it difficult to either grasp the level at which the content is written or its length. However, experts advise that even as simple as reading a paragraph a day can provide good results. Also, readers must bear in mind that as they continue to read, they should endeavour to read more broadly so as to become acquainted with unfamiliar things and scenarios.
As the saying goes, information is power. That is why empowering ourselves with information has the propensity to not only put that power in our hands but also know how to use it. For those who find it difficult finding time to write, here’s some advice from bestselling novelist, Stephen King: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”