Why I have more books than clothes: The educator’s perspective

2016-01-11 08:56

If there is one ritual that I wish I had practiced religiously as a school learner, it is the strong culture of reading, not just read but read books that will awaken my inner-self.

This feeling of guilt is attributed to the fact that people who make reading their daily bread prove to be less prone, if at all, to manipulation and exploitation. After watching voluminous videos about and closely watching the lives of some of the world’s influential people, there is one common thread that ties them together, the strong culture of reading. I am afraid this culture of reading does not feature that much in our schools, especially those facing multiple deprivations— many of them based in township and rural settings.

If South Africa is to become one of the leading nations of the world, our schools need to prioritise a strong culture of reading among the learners. To back up this assertion, in his book Family wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari, Robin Sharma observes: “the greatest leaders in this new world will be the greatest thinkers.” As if this was not enough, the Roman philosopher Seneca observes: “so long as you live, keep learning how to live.” In the last four years, I have visited a number of the schools in townships and while almost all of them had a stack of books shelved somewhere in the corners of their storerooms, worryingly none of these books were ever read. I do not blame the learners for this sense of reading apathy, because in most of our families and schools, reading isn’t much of a prized habit owing in part to ‘busy’ work schedules by parents, lots of television and social media. Most of our kids only read the books (novels in this case) that are prescribed by their teachers for the sake of passing the specific subject. How sad.

So why should we teachers prioritise this strong culture of reading awakening books? The first reason is books are arguably one of very few tools through which revolutionary ideas can be sourced, nurtured and used to change the world. It is through books that, as our grannies have proven through their genius story-telling rituals, our imagination is taken to the next level. By this I mean being able to see things that only your mind can see and being able to go to places in the world that your physical being has never even heard of.

That’s the power of books.

By encouraging the strong culture of reading among our learners, we ignite one quality through which geniuses of the world have been born: curiosity. The hope is once we have established this culture in them, they will start to want to learn more, know more and do more—just be more. My personal account of reading is I have become more confident than ever before. I have seen my knowledge base grow in ways unimaginable through just one simple thing, reading. Only through reading, I have learned how to be a better writer because as you read, you are able to spot how other writers use punctuation marks and different parts of speech. I would not have otherwise known this had I not made reading a habit. I now have more books than clothes because of one realisation: the clothes I have only have a short life-span but the knowledge I have gathered will stay with me until I depart from this world and they would have afforded me an opportunity to live this noble planet better than I found it. Of course, as we inculcate this culture of reading among our learners, we should encourage them to find ways by which they will apply the wisdom that they gathered between those pages; otherwise their reading will not be good for humanity.

My parting words to a young South African learner: when many of your friends spend hours and hours on social media chasing “likes” and comments, spend yours reading empowering books. When many of your peers spend hours watching soapies or senseless gossips about the so-called celebrities, spend yours fine-tuning your brain for intelligence solves the problems, not how many soapies you watch.

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