Books must be made affordable so that everyone can read and be able to dream, learn and reflect
During the last year when most people had to limit their time spent outside, books proved a powerful tool to combat loneliness, reinforce ties between people and expand their horizons, while inspiring their minds and enhancing their creativity.
In some countries the number of books read has doubled. During the month of April and all year round, it is critical to take time to read on our own and with our children. It is a time to celebrate the importance of reading, foster children’s growth as readers and promote a lifelong love of literature and integration into the world of work.
It began as a UNESCO-sponsored day on April 23, 1995, and has since expanded to more than 100 countries worldwide, a global celebration of World Book and Copyright Day on April 23 (the day on which several prominent authors including William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega passed away) to promote reading, publishing and copyright.
It is an event to recognise the scope of books, establishing a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures. On this occasion, the UNESCO and the international organisations representing major sectors of the book industry, publishers, booksellers and libraries, promote book reading as a need and a habit to revive a living culture.
The 2022 theme for the Day is “You are a Reader”. It focuses on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The aim of the day is to encourage children to explore different kinds of topics and develop a passion for reading. The World Book Day provides an opportunity for children who may not have their own books at home to be able to own their very first book. It stresses the importance of reading and reminds us that we should all have the privilege of being able to read.
The purpose of the event is to encourage more children to discover the pleasures of reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. The need for this day is greater than ever as the National Literacy Trust, an independent charity based in London, England, states that only a quarter of children read daily in 2020 (26 percent of the population) compared to 43 percent in 2015.
Books are, indeed, more reliable than most sources on the internet because they have been reviewed deeply before publishing. The information in books stays accurate for a long period while you may have the information on the internet changing every hour. Even if the internet is fast, and the power of the internet can’t be denied, books allow their users and readers to take on, respond, react and transform.
The growing use of television and internet facilities has resulted in the decline of the book reading habit. Book reading improves vocabulary, language command, writing skills and communication abilities.
According to a latest survey conducted by the Gallup and Gillani Foundation Pakistan, 75 percent of Pakistanis are not reading any book at all and only 9 percent are devoted readers. Three out of four students in Pakistan never read a book other than those prescribed. Only nine percent of youngsters are keen readers.
So much so, a majority of the students are not aware of the World Book Day and its purposes because book reading is generally avoided. It is one of the major reasons of our failure in the fight against extremism since we lack the tolerance for the opposite point of view that a book reading culture might have instilled in our attitudes.
In the past, books were not only placed and decorated in our homes; these were also exchanged within friends and families, borrowed from neighbourhood libraries, college and public libraries, discussed in social gatherings and gifted to loved ones. In the present scenario, the markets for books are also fewer as businesses do not see much demand for the product.
The internet revolution and new media have also affected the book reading culture. A majority of students in Pakistan, instead of reading books, spend their time on online games and other social media activities. Even though the European nations are far more advanced compared to Pakistan the people in Europe and other developed countries still spend a lot of their time on book reading.
The habit of reading books should be developed in a child during the early phase of their education. The failure on the part of educational institutions and others to arrange book reading sessions has affected the culture of reading books.
Books are no more attracting people as they use modern innovations of electronic gadgets. Students prefer watching videos to reading due to the fact that watching does not need that much effort.
The power of the books must be fully connected with other factors of inspiration. We must ensure their access so that everyone can find refuge in reading and by doing so be able to dream, learn and reflect. The main hindrance is the high prices of books and magazines. Publishing of books has become a purely commercial venture. It has hardly anything today to do with promoting book reading and stimulating interest in literature.
One must thank the organisers of book fairs and vendors of secondhand books who sell these books and magazines on footpaths for perhaps the only sources of low-priced publications to satisfy a desire of book reading in the country.
The writer is a playwright and a freelance journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com and his blogging site: soulandland.com