…Leveraging books and reading for national development
More than ever, the circumstances of today and our recent history require that the book industry is strengthened to play its role effectively, and the efforts put in promoting reading doubled to ensure national development. The health of every nation is dependent on what its people consume.
Thus, if a nation feeds on books with rich, well regulated and balanced content, that nation will become a society that is rich in knowledge, creativity and balanced with its knowledge and thinking for national development. Not only that, but also, that society will be willing to consume the books it produces because of the richness and wholesomeness of the books. On a day earmarked for the celebration of the World Book and Copyright Day, worldwide, there is no better alternative than to celebrate the day by discussing how the book industry and reading could be solidified and leveraged on to ensure national development.
The World Book and Copyright Day is an important day celebrated by member states of the United Nations (UN). Among other reasons, the event is organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the 23rd of April, every year, to promote reading, publishing and copyright. All over the world, books and reading are celebrated; and reading and its related activities are undertaken on the day by member states to drum home the importance of books and reading.
Books and reading have tremendous impact on national development. The collective social, economic, and psychological value of and need for reading and literacy has been emphasised by various research works, institutions and bodies interested in promoting reading. Reading, which is core to promoting literacy, helps improve the human capacity of a country and thereby accelerating its growth and development. According to Research from the Australian Productivity Commission, there exist links between literacy skills and employment, health, social and community participation.
One of the benchmarks of a country that is well developed is the standard of living of its people. The Former UN Secretary General, the Late Kofi Annan sums up the importance of literacy as, ‘a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool to daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories.
Literacy is a platform for democratisation, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman, and child can realise his or her full potential.’ – Kofi Annan, International Literacy Day, 1997.
Books are the bedrock of reading and a source of power to ensure the preservation of cultural heritage and a tool to cause social transformation and economic advancement. Every country therefore ought to pay attention to the enormous contribution books and its industry make when it comes to national development. To realise the benefits of books to every society, there is the conscious need to solidify the book industry with the required regulation, training, resources and investment to produce reading materials that ensure national cohesion and socio-economic transformation.
The preservation of the knowledge base and cultural heritage of a country is largely dependent on the strength of its book industry. A country ought to nurture writers, publishers, printers, editors and other players in the book industry to keep the book industry growing to meet its reading and writing demands. Where a nation seeks to reach in its developmental goals is as important as where it is and where it is coming from. This calls for a proper documentation of its history, growth and achievements, and requires a diversified book industry which focuses on documenting all the facets of national development. Again, it is required that the intellectual properties of those who pen down their experiences and the experiences of the society are well protected.
For this reason, on April 23, 2021, the Ghana Book Development Council in collaboration with the Ghana Library Authority, the Ghana Publishers Association, the Ghana Association of Writers, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and other stakeholders in the book industry would commemorate the World Book and Copyright Day to drum home the need to solidify the book industry for national development. The day would also be used to celebrate books and reading and reflect on their contribution to national development.
The writer is the Literacy Promotion Manager,Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC)