LILLIAN BANDA, Lusaka
STUDIES have shown that there are many benefits that come with investing in reading both fictional and non-fictional books, as well as materials that promote personal growth.
Reading widely sharpens your critical thinking skills and helps to expand your vocabulary. It can also enhance an individual’s abilities; educate one more about the environment and line of work. Moreover, reading enriching materials enables one to have a creative as well as an enterprising mind.
It is said that people who have a rich and wide vocabulary are generally polite and less likely to resort to using abusive words during arguments. This is because they not only have the ability to command diction, but also to sift words.
“But those with a poor and limited vocabulary are quick to employ derogatory language mainly because they would have failed to fully follow through a point or comprehend an issue and so they use uncouth words to derail the conversation so as not to expose their inability to understand the matter at hand,” observes Joseph Sakala, 24, who manages a bookstand at Cosmopolitan shopping mall in Lusaka.
Notwithstanding all the aforementioned benefits of reading widely, not so many people read beyond their academic or professional horizon.
For many, the issue is not being able to read or write but simply finding time to read enriching materials.
“Our country is in need of critical thinkers. These are individuals who are able to analyse issues and provide meaningful answers to many of the challenges that we are confronted with today,” says Zambian writer Maliya Mzyece Sililo.
Ms Sililo, author of Picking Up the Pieces, a short novel that has been incorporated into the Zambian secondary school curriculum, contends that lack of a good reading culture has led many people to engage in shallow conversations that only serve to perpetuate poverty and hopelessness. She further contends that people who do not read widely believe anything and are therefore easily deceived.
“Reading does more than just improve your vocabulary. It also helps one to be alert and analytical. Unlike others, a well-read person is not easily duped,” she says. Ms Sililo adds that reading is not just an important professional skill but also a way to enjoy informative, creative and inspiring literature that enriches life experiences. She has since implored the general public to approach reading as an enjoyable and transformational activity, that in the long run positively impacts life.
She says parents and guardians need to encourage children to start reading from a tender age. “There are simple reading materials you can get for teenagers, such as Speak Out and others,” she pointed out.
Nsomfwa Kampamba, a Lusaka resident, has implored parents and teachers to inculcate a reading culture in children. Ms Kampamba observes that many people that pick up reading for knowledge and pleasure early on in life tend to become ardent readers.
“I think it is something that they have grown to like, hence they keep doing it even in their old age, which is a good thing. We should encourage children to read child-recommended materials more often,” she says.
Richard Mulonga, a journalist, notes that articles by a well-read writer make interesting reading. Mr Mulonga says journalists must read beyond their scope of work and invest in research.
“Well-read people produce better stories. Their articles are often logical and insightful, thereby making reading interesting.
Additionally, authors of good pieces command respect among their peers and attract a unique kind of following that only individuals that have perfected their art do,” he says.
But how can one develop as well as maintain a habit of reading?
As with any skill worth investing in, a reading habit requires time and dedication to develop.
However, one must start by establishing whether or not they actually read at all.
An ardent reader of Francine Rivers Novels and books by Myles Monroe, Chiluya Siamuzyulu, notes that there are no hard and fast rules about how to develop a reading habit.
Mrs Siamuzyulu explains that one just has to be deliberate about it by setting aside some time to read something that enriches one’s mind.
She says she started reading motivational books and novels when she was in Grade Eight and went on to share her thoughts on developing a reading habit.
“For beginners, it is better to start with small books. Read in areas that interest you because it is easier then. You’ll discover that with time, you’ll develop interest and you gradually get to read bigger books which are larger in terms of volume,” she says, and also emphasises the need to set a goal in order to stay focused.
And Zambia Women Writers Association (ZAWWA) says developing a good reading culture calls for discipline and prioritising one’s reading time.
“It is just a question of prioritising important things in life and reading is an important undertaking, so we need to make time for it. If you can have time to watch television or be on social media, then you can definitely make time to read a book,” ZAWWA president Agnes Nyendwa said.
ZAWWA recently published The Budding Writer; an anthology of 20 stories written by seasoned writers and ordinary members of the public between 2015 and 2016. The anthology, which was launched on February 9 this year, will be available for sale in bookshops soon.
Mrs Nyendwa said ZAWWA is working on conducting reading sessions once a month.
“This is but one initiative by which ZAWWA seeks to foster a good reading culture among the general public. It is hoped that more people would, through such arrangements, be encouraged to read as well as write,” she enthused.
Reports on developing and enhancing reading habits indicate that reading for at least 30 to 40 minutes a day is good for a start and would help one develop a solid reading habit that is anchored on clear objectives and goals.
It is advised that one should develop a list of books or materials one wishes to read and set a time frame for their reading plan.
LILLIAN BANDA, Lusaka