MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL

How publishers can nurture reading culture

It’s not enough to simply teach children to read. You must give them something worth reading.

In Summary
  • When they promote a reading culture among school-going children, they are planting a permanent market for their other books.
  • A student who reads for leisure will continue looking for edifying books to read long after he has left formal schooling or learning.
Reading
Reading
There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.
Frank Serafini

The early years of a child’s education are decisive in laying the foundation for literacy skills—the ability to read and write.

Most of us may take it for granted. However, learning to read is much tougher than people think. Parents know how tough but decisive reading is in the educational adventure of children. The day a child connects letters to words is as exciting as the day the child takes his/her first steps or says their first word.

This is because the ability to read gives a child the wings of an eagle. With it, children can fly to the highest mountain tops of knowledge. It is the open sesame to all knowledge, igniting the mind and shaping personality and character.

The thrust of this article is to look into the role publishers can play in helping children to make good use of the opportunities reading ability offers to them.

The ability to read is not an end but a means to an end. It is the key to the intellects, souls and hearts of superior minds; to the thoughts, ideas and feelings great men and women have written about on human life and the world. The only way to enter these minds, hearts and souls is through reading their works.

This where publishers of books—fiction and informational—come in. They provide instructional materials, in conjunction with educational authorities of a country, consistent with the agreed curriculum for different levels of education.

Publishers have the capacity to help a society not only provide first-rate education but also nurture a national reading culture. They can do this in several ways.

Firstly, they can change the fortunes of a country beyond their fiduciary duty by producing texts that are of high quality and which help students to learn directly and independently from them.

Ability to learn directly and independently from a book implies that the students are able to read with understanding, and construct meaning on their own. The interaction with the same content in the classrooms only reinforces what the student has already learnt or will learn before and after the lesson respectively.

A student who reads for leisure will continue looking for edifying books to read long after he has left formal schooling or learning. The student is likely to nurture that habit when s/he gets a family. He or she will buy books for his/her children, books outside the ones the government has prescribed for the curriculum.

Quality textbooks help develop students’ ability to learn through reading.

Secondly, they can scan the published landscape for the finest imaginative and informational books, and have them in bookshops across the breadth and length of the country. The books should be of great educational value—in terms of quality.  The books should have the ability to arouse the interest of students—in terms of language, ideas and thoughts.

Thirdly, the publishers should be able to aggressively market the books that in their editorial judgement meet our national aspirations as a country.

Fourthly, leaders and managers of publishing firms should be visible to the public. They should participate in public speaking sessions with students in educational institutions and during cultural events.

It is not enough to simply teach children to read. The country must give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations. Something that develops their intellectual powers or skills. Something that helps them make sense of their own lives and helps them know that they are part and parcel of a larger universe to which they need to make a contribution for their wellbeing now and in later years.

The fiduciary duty of publishers to society goes beyond the school years of students. They also have a duty to create and sustain a culture of reading; they can develop a habit of voluntary reading, reading that involves personal choice without the coercion of examinations.

When they promote a reading culture among school-going children, they are planting a permanent market for their other books—fictional and nonfictional works. A student who reads for leisure will continue looking for edifying books to read long after he has left formal schooling or learning. The student is likely to nurture that habit when s/he gets a family. He or she will buy books for his/her children, books outside the ones the government has prescribed for the curriculum.

The quality of support publishers give to reading in the early years of a child’s education has the unparalleled potential of developing reading fluency among students. It is that fluency, supported by reading of very good books, that lays the foundation for life-long learning. Lifelong learning under modernisation and knowledge society means, reading of rigorous fictional and nonfictional works.