At the weekend, I delivered a lecture at the Masjidus-Salam to the people of Maamobi on the topic Parental Role in a Child’s Reading Journey. I gladly accepted to do that because of two very important factors. The first factor is that it feeds into our vision at Success Book Club to eliminate illiteracy completely from our midst. It was therefore a joy to us when we received the invitation. After all, my grandfather Chinua Achebe stated that when the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.
The second is because of the organiser of this wonderful initiative. He is a man who is living the Ghanaian agenda, the dream of our founding fathers. The dream of Kwame Nkrumah when he built many institutions of learning was that that staff and students of all places of learning and research should keep in close touch with the life of the people. There should be constant contact between them and the public in the form of open lectures, discussions and other joint activities. The make-up of new knowledge available to the people as a whole was just as important as the acquisition of it.
And this is exactly what Sheikh Sani Kuwait is doing at Maamobi. He left Ghana to pursue higher education and rose to the point of Lecturer at Ilorin University. He returned, and in his quest to create a platform whereon knowledge could be shared to the indigenes he started the programme he called Enlightening the Ummah, and it happens twice every month. He invites technocrats, Youth-leaders, experts and various people doing wonderful stuff to come and interact with the people of his community and share knowledge with them. He wants to build a progressive community. So, when I was invited to come lead the discussion on the role of parents in a children’s reading journey, I gladly agreed.
I began by telling them about what we do at Success Book Club. Success Book Club is an organisation formed to give the youth a platform to develop, uplift and make monumental impact in themselves, communities and the world at large. What we do is read books and discuss them at the end of the month. One of the books we read was ‘Think Big: Unleashing your Potential for Excellence’. This book talks about the life of Benjamin Carson, a young boy who came from an inner-city of Detroit and was a dunce in his class. He was intolerably stupid and his teenager mum was worried about his academic woes. She later restricted their television intake and required them to read two books every week – and write reports on them.
This singular act moved him from the bottom of his class to the top within a year. He began to read voraciously and become the toast of teachers. He later got a scholarship to Yale University – and he was able to get ahead in life to become a professor of neurosurgery, plastic surgery, oncology and paediatrics, and also the director of paediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. He later led the team to separate twins joined at the head successfully. I reminded them that in the book Ben Carson talks about how powerful an organ the brain is, and the fact that it is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.
I then drew their attention to how critical literacy is to our lives by putting out some statistics from the World Literacy Foundation. According to the foundation: “Illiteracy and low levels of literacy have been estimated to cost the global economy approximately US$1.19trillion annually. More than two billion adults worldwide don’t have the essential literacy skills employers need. Unemployment causes lost productivity, which slows economic growth. When a high proportion of the adult population has poor literacy skills, many positions remain vacant as insufficient individuals are adequately skilled to fulfil those roles.
“Functionally illiterate parents often prioritise work before education and have lower expectations regarding schooling. This leads to a cycle of disadvantage through generations. People who are completely or functional illiterates face the prospect of poor health outcomes, welfare dependency, gender inequality and a lack of social cohesion. There are currently 5.5 million more out-of-school girls than boys worldwide.
In the long-term, this widens the gender gap. Studies have shown the mother´s literacy level is closely related to child health and survival. People with low levels of literacy are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes, have poor health literacy, and practice poor health behaviours. Literacy significantly enhances a person’s ability to access, understand and apply health information to make accurate decisions.”
I then stated five important roles a parent can play in the child’s reading journey. First and foremost, the gift of time is important.
Give them the gift of your time
It is believed that the best gift a parent can give to a child is the gift of his or her time. I decided to discuss what is not profoundly done in our part of the world: talking to a child in the womb. Psychologists are saying that at around 14 weeks in the womb, the baby starts to hear voices and begins to decipher them during the last stages. While hearing, the baby begins to understand and remember things said.
It is therefore imperative to start talking to the child when you’re alone, read a newspaper or book loud to them, recite the Quran or read the bible to them etc. They get it in the womb through audio-simulation. Parents should do well to get home early after work in order to bond with their children and provide them with the necessary guidance and training… and also exhort them to read.
Gift of good example
The next role is to give your children is the gift of good example. Those young ones you see have their eyes fixated on you. Examples begin in the home, because the family is the foundation. Lead by example and the children will follow. Before you expect others to change, you must change. Rather than instructing the children to be polite, you should be polite to them. Rather than instructing them to clean up their rooms, you should tidy up yours.
One author stated that “the best way to inspire children to become the kind of adults you dream of them becoming is to become the kind of adult you want them to be”. Don’t let the young ones see you always watching TV. TV adds nothing to a child and makes children lose focus. Get the newspaper; hold a book to be reading. Learn how to read yourself.
Get them materials
Build a library at home. Hold study sessions. Buy books of great men. Books that keep you flipping through the pages. Books that affect at least the life of your child’s body, the beat of his or her heart, the illumination of their souls, the enlightenment of their consciousness and their vibration with energy and life. Provide your child with books that will boost his or her confidence. With confidence, they win the race of life even before starting.
One great man stated: “Perhaps my greatest gift to my children when I die will be my library. I have books on leadership, relationships, business, philosophy, wellness, spirituality, great lives and many of my other favoured topics in it. Many of these I’ve picked up in bookshops from across the planet when I travel on business. These books have shaped my thinking. They have formed my personal philosophy. They have made me the man I am. To me, my books are priceless”.
Take your children to bookshops
One key role is taking the children to bookshops and flooding their souls with inspiration. Take them to art galleries, museums and places that will leave a lasting impression on them.
Invite Great men into your homes.
Invite great men within your community into your homes. Let them hold conversations with the children. Let them hold intellectual interactions. Let them model the children into good citizens. As much as possible, Distance your children from miscreants and pessimists. Build your children into great men and women in society by giving them the best of inspiration.
NB: The Writer is a Youth-Activist and the Executive Secretary of Success Book Club.