Avid Readers: Changing the Reading Culture in Port Harcourt

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The habit of reading is one that has existed in history for many years. The ability of an individual to comprehend a language which is usually in words and sentences to communicate a particular idea is what reading is all about. Although, Nigeria has once been proud to produce some of the best literary publishers in Africa. It is sad to see that the culture of reading is dwindling in the country especially in the younger generation. 

With the introduction of the digital revolution, the steady decline in reading is a problem that is on a global scale. In Nigeria, this can be attributed to poverty, corruption and a decline of dedicated reading spaces such as libraries for the coming generation.

The city of Port Harcourt is not left out from this ineptitude in reading. The vast majority of youth would rather be on their phones and play video games than sit to read a book. So many organizations have set out to solve this problem and bring a new look to reading. Which brings us to our story today about a group of people who are determined to change the narrative.

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The Avid Readers Book Club was set up in 2014 with the intent of not only encouraging its members to cultivate good reading habits but motivate the society at large on the importance of reading. 

‘The book club was created to encourage life-long learning. A lifestyle that is essential for survival in today’s competitive, dynamic and knowledge-based economy’, Mrs. Adaeze Morah the president and founder of the book club tells me. 

I was privileged to be invited to cover Avid Reader’s Maiden Bookfair event at the Dietams Primary School in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The event brought together authors, teachers, children, parents and book lovers from all over the city under one roof to explore reading on a different scale. It was a chance for the children to experience the reading culture in a more fun and relaxed environment. There were games, food, entertainment, book reading and signing by original authors who came to display their literary works at the event. 

I have to admit, besides a library or a book shop, I had never seen so many books assembled to elegantly in one place before in the city. It almost brought me to tears.

The Book Pod, Bookville World, Keeping it Real Foundation, Port Harcourt Global Shapers Community and many more were some of the organizations that graced the occasion to display their books and the services they render to the reading culture.  Besides hard copies, the kids also had a chance to grab a copy of some of their favorite audio books. Don’t think for a moment that the adults were left out of the fun. There was something for everyone. 

As long as you were a reader, there was a literary piece for you.

On further discussions with the founder of the club, she explained to me that the club is made of two arms; the adult and the children sections. The adult section is made up of women only. Her explanation for this is, “It is because, whether we agree or not, women play a vital part in home and society. I believe, if we can get our ladies reading, then it will take little or nothing to get families and the society at large to start reading again”.

I also wanted to know if Port Harcourt would be seeing more of the Avid Book fair in the coming years or was this a one-off event. Her response, “As regards the bookfair, hopefully, you will definitely be seeing more of it. The frequency has not been determined yet”. 

As much as we all speak about the issues we face in Port Harcourt and the urgency to revive the reading culture in the younger generation. It was a breath of fresh air to see people who are taking the initiative and acting to be part of the solution.

 

I definitely would love to be at the next Avid Readers Book Fair to pick up some more of our favorite African literary classics. I also would love to see some of the rising stars we have in the literary world in Port Harcourt and get their take on what the reading culture is like in Nigeria.

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