This may come as a shock to you so maybe you should sit in your most comfy chair. As someone who is known for promoting reading as a culture-I did not always love reading -oh no! When I was your age, I thought reading was a chore, another boring subject to be learnt at school.
My parents were strict (I have come to learn that that is called ‘tough love’) and didn’t allow us to watch TV most of the time. Back in those days. There was no internet or mobile phone, and the TV had only one channel…did you catch that? One…channel!
What my parents did for us was create a home library for us and that was the norm in many homes too. So, we meet up in our neighbourhood or school and we’ll be talking about the books we had read; Malory Towers, Hardy Boys or Famous Five, Secret Seven. Nancy Drew, and the infamous Tintin and Asterix and Obelix comics.
These books came in volumes, like a series, and everyone wanted to read them all. We had a system where we would lend each other books that we hadn’t read yet; you would be so lucky to exchange yours on a Friday as you had the whole weekend to finish it or them.
We wanted to either play outdoors or watch TV when we had the slightest opportunity but “go and read your books” used to be the booming order we would hear. We will drag ourselves into our rooms and unwillingly read our books, falling off to sleep in the process.
Along came boarding school and, my oh my, were we glad to leave home (for a period of 3months at a time) to stay with our friends in school! Nothing prepares you for boarding life -the highs and the lows and the unknown- all count towards moulding you. In boarding school, the skill I had acquired at home- reading in a quiet room by myself, came in handy. Ask anyone who has been through boarding school what “Prep Time” is.
By the time I had gotten to the tertiary stage of my education, it dawned on me that reading was the only way to survive boredom and vanquish ignorance. There was a lot of reading required at this level. If you did not know how to read just for the fun of it, you could struggle with reading for your academic work.
The amount of reading that must be done -journals, current affairs- the list is endless. If you haven’t cultivated the skill of reading, you could literally buckle under the volume of reading required at the secondary and tertiary levels of your education, not to talk of the rest of your life.
When I was a student in the UK, the real benefit of reading for me came in to play. Public transport in London – capital of the UK- can be one of the loneliest places to be if you do not have anything to read. There is hardly any communal chatting on London public transport as you would find, say, in Accra. Almost everyone’s head is buried in a book, newspaper, or a tablet with books- reading is a culture in London, I noticed.
Back in Ghana, I begun to carry a novel on me wherever I went. Whether I was heading for a doctor’s appointment, a meeting with a Minister or waiting to pick up children from a party, I always have a book on me to read so I don’t get bored.
You might say, oh I can be on my phone or electronic gadget to play games or catch up on snippets of social media postings- until your battery runs out! Books do not need batteries, you know. Reading gives us escapism from the unpleasant realities of life; we travel the world via reading, we learn about new cultures through reading.
Someone ever said – Reading gives us some place to go when we must stay where we are. Reading is definitely not just a hobby; it is a life skill, so hone yours. What are you reading this weekend?