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ماہنامہ دختران اسلام > اپریل 2019 ء > Declining culture of book reading and the need for its restitution
ماہنامہ دختران اسلام : اپریل 2019 ء
> ماہنامہ دختران اسلام > اپریل 2019 ء > Declining culture of book reading and the need for its restitution

Declining culture of book reading and the need for its restitution

Jaweria Waheed

Amongst other positive social values the culture of reading is also persistently declining leading to more intolerance and biasness in our social behaviours which is an indicator of our intellectual decay as well. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the claim that we are at 'the pinnacle of civilizatin' has been heard numerous times. It is true that the recent teachnological developments and accessibility to electronic devices is unprecedented, yet this has resulted in the decline of one thing that according to historians made our civilization; Reading.

Most people around us, especially youngsters, are gradually losing interest in reading; whether it is reading a newspaper, a simple magazine or a book. Indeed, the very place that reading occupies in our society appears to be shrinking. According to some people, it is teachnology that is to be blamed for this as they believe that various electronic devices and the subsequent explosion of social media have all contributed directly or indirectly towards this decline by making it more and more difficult for people to 'find time' to read. Viewed from a different perspective, others argue that the decline in reading is a reflection of the decline in the value of education as a status symbol. The root of the problem turning ours into a non-reading society lies in our flawed education system. The fallacious curriculum doesn't offer any room for general reading and creative writing. Teachers just following the syllabus are rarely found motiviating students towards general reading to acquire in-depth knowledge. As a result, most of the students are turned exam-oriented. They never read to develop indeas and expand the horizons of their vision but just to get through their papers. (Brikerts, 2004)

Whatever be the reason that lies behind this decline, it is crucial that the current trend be reversed for as Neil Postman once wrote in his book "Amusing Ourselves to Death". which was about the repercussions of a decline in reading- "a mode of thinking is being lost." For this to happen, it is essential that children be encouraged to read from a young age. if instilled from an early age, this habit of reading might then remain throughout their lifetime. In the same line of thought, it is important that academic institutions join the battle by not only providing books to students but by making a wide variety of books available in order to appeal to the different interests students might hold. Simultaneously, library classes should be monitored to ensure that students are not only 'turning pages' but actually reading. Moreover, the tradition of reading can be revived if we make effective use of technology by promoting online reading materials and by setting up online book clubs. Whatever be the method used, it is urgent that the decline in the reading culture be reversed at the earliest possible for the importance of reading cannot be overstated. (Dickinson, Griffith, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2012)

Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories- they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, we've moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. That's about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need. (Collins, 2010)

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg; they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before- books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers or internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content. (Brikerts, 2004)

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. Litercay is more important than ever before, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realizing what they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open. (Collins, 2010)

Books are the way that we comminicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasureable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner clam. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. (Dickinson, Griffith, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2012)

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. "If you want your children to be intelligent," he said, "read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

In the present age of Fitna, the best way to deal with the challenges is through research. Knowledge is a beacon of light in this age of darkness. Shaykh ul Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri has equated book reading with direct companionship. He stated that one can directly get into the companionship of the author by delving into the world of books.

Therefore, books not only are source of information but knowledge that illuminates our minds and souls and makes our lives purposeful. It is a high time to restitute the culture of book reading which has been lost in this age of information and technology.

References:

Brikerts, S. (2004). The Truth about Reading: It's Easy to Blame Technology for Our Younger Generation's Declining Interest in Literature. but What, if Anything, Can Be Done about It? School Liberary Journal, 50(11), 50.

Dickinson, D.K., Griffith, J.A., Golinkoff, R.M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How reading books fosters language development around the world. Child development research, 2012.

Collins, J. (2010). Bring on the books for everybody: How literary culture becamce popular culture. Duke University Press.

 

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