World Book Day & Declining Culture of Book Reading

Syed Tahir Rashdi
World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day, or International Day of the Book, is an annual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright. The first World Book Day was celebrated on 22 April in 1995, and continues to be recognized on that day. A related event in the United Kingdom and Ireland is observed in March. On this World Book Day we must pay concern over the declining culture of book reading and urged teachers, parents and scholars to play a role in the revival of the reading culture among people. Book is believed to be the best friend of a person and book reading is a good habit for everybody who is associated to attain and pursue knowledge. Keeping various books in the shelves and reading them time to time is also a perpetual act to improve the reading habit. Furher, book reading improves the attitude and behaviour of a person. Book reading also positively influences people who are around a sensible reader. Books quench our thirst for knowledge. Through books, we learn about how things work, understand different cultures, and comprehend the history of things. We can learn new languages, how to improve ourselves and even how to build things. The right books are full of useful information that helps us become smarter, sharper, more skilled and more open to new ideas. Moreover, book reading culture in libraries is an adequate and culture promoting work. According to resources, the more you read, the more you stimulate your mind. Mental stimulation keeps the blood flowing to our brains, preventing diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. When we read, our cognitive function and memory improve. The healthier your brain is, the more you are able to focus and develop your analytical skills. It also can help you relieve tension and relax. Books allow us to escape the stress and anxiety of everyday life by allowing us to immerse ourselves in another world or involve us in a topic we find compelling. And because there is a book out there on just about every topic in the world, it is possible for everyone to find the perfect book that will keep them focused and at ease. 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; And, the more one reads ,the more he/she will be to do creative writing as reading is the key source of vocabulary enhancement. Moreover, an enhanced vocabulary is the basic requirement for a good piece of writing. Although reading and being members of libraries, spending time in those quiet halls and getting books issued for reading at homes has become a part of a culture unknown to the present generation. Reading builds the essential attributes for self-advancement and national development. But it seems now as if we are living in an age of browsing internet, playing with cell phones etc. — reading a book in a peaceful corner of a library has turned to become an old- fashioned idea. 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 and a good pastime. However, over the years, in Pakistani society, reading habits are gradually fading away, particularly among the youth. The book reading culture is diminishing day by day and now it seems, in Pakistani society, reading habits are non prevalent. In the early days or to be more precise, 70 or 80 years back when the resources of individuals were limited, book reading was considered as one of the basic requirements like eating food or drinking water. Those unable to buy books were able to read books of their choice and liking from libraries spread all over acertain locality at quite affordable rates to be charged on daily, weekly or monthly basis. Adding fuel tothe fire, 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 3 out 4 students in the country never read a book at all except probably the university course books and that too only for passing the exam. A number of reasons could be held responsible for declining of book reading culture amongst the youth and topping the all was found the internet technology. It has affected reading habits more than anything else among school, college and university students. No doubt, technology has helped developed 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 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. Jerry Seinfeld said: “A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.” Books play the vital role in the character building of an individual and nation. Books expand the horizon of thoughts of its reader. Books tend to change the thought process and perspectives of people about the world. The reader becomes the individual who thinks. According to the World Cities Culture Report 2015, with 1,100 public libraries, Paris has the highest number of public libraries in any city across the globe. Edinburgh, as mall city with less than half a million population, has 298 public libraries. But in Lahore, known as the    cultural capital of Pakistan, there are only six public libraries. Pakistani classrooms usually do not encourage questioning amongst students, but can we really blame the classroom for a trait we are socialized into from the beginning? Thus, when I became a teacher, I made sure to always encourage questioning by responding in a positive manner, turning whatever was being formally discussed into a casual conversation. Finally, I urge educational concerned authorities to please provide more and more libraries, free books and efforts to be made to promote book reading culture. As Garrison Keillor said” Book is a gift you can open again and again.

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