Death of book reading culture

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IT was not long ago when book reading culture was a visible landmark of the educated lot — books were considered the source of knowledge for developing verbal abilities, improving concentration, enhancing imagination, boosting entertainment and reducing stress. However, over the years, reading habits have gradually been faded away even among the highly educated class of the society. It was more astonishing to go through the results of a recent survey conducted by the Gallup and Gillani Foundation Pakistan according to which 75% of the students in Pakistan are not reading any book — showing sad yet real side of the problem that three out four students in the country never read a book at all except the university course books and that too only for passing the exam.
Reading of productive books is considered building blocks for character, society and nation at large. It is a window to the world of knowledge: economy, politics, history, literature, culture and what not. The culture of reading is crucial for independent knowledge acquisition and lifelong learning. It builds the essential attributes for self-advancement and national development. But it seems as if we are living in an age of browsing internet, playing with cell phones and sending text messages — reading a book in a peaceful corner of a library has turned to become an archaic idea. No doubt, technology has helped develop society in different ways, but at the same time, it is robbing away the true charm of life that we were grown up with — sinking and swimming in the world of reading books. The book reading habit if not encouraged would be left just a habit talked about and followed by old generation. It is said that for sustaining a strong reading culture among the school-going-kids, misuse of internet technology should be banned.
Talking to the scribe, Executive Director, Iqbal Institute of Research and Dialogue, International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), Professor Dr. Husnul Amin said, “Recently, a student under my supervision has found in her research thesis that the enrolled-students of Islamabad-based universities are using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, etc) for about 6-9 hours (74%) on a daily basis. He said that productive time is wasted on social media, adding that students often prefer going for quick-reading, reading-in-bullets and images etc for avoiding the original text(s). “The vicious academic cycle are needed to be changed for introducing some incentives for reading books — promotion of teachers and marks for students etc”, he added. During early nineties, there were lots of public libraries and bookshops in major cities of the country. However, now the trend has changed as reading habits declined due to social and electronic media and hardly any bookshop is left. Nowadays, students either go for spoon, surface or cursory reading and that too on social media — obsessed with the idea of ‘quick-to-share’ the stuff online in the social media. Books do not attract students as they used to be due to modern innovations of electronic gadgets. Therefore, they prefer watching than reading as watching does not need that much mental effort in understanding. However, as an avid reader, for me, it does not seem easy to read from the screen even if it is a short story or a novella. But I can read physical books for hours without having to strain in my eyes.
It is book reading habits that instill the spirit of tolerance for respecting diverse and opposite views of others — direly needed for the youngsters of the country for combating extremist worldviews. In order to promote reading culture, it is important to motivate students and teachers for study-circles, writing book-reviews, reading-play and analytical-reading. The students should also be encouraged for utilizing their time in reading while travelling in bus or train. Likewise, collaborative efforts on public-private partnership are needed for libraries and reading related projects for reviving and promoting book reading culture in the country.
—The Author is Journalist based in Islamabad.