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Librarian, Nnamdi Azikiwe Library University of Nigeria, Nsukka. AND Ekere, Justina N. Librarian, Nnamdi Azikiwe Library University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
ABSTRACT Reading has been identified as a very important skill in lifelong educational development. Unfortunately, Nigerians are not making serious efforts to inculcate good reading habit among the youths. Thus, the standard of education in Nigeria has continued to nose dive as a result of this trend. This paper reviewed the problems which have characterized reading culture in Nigeria and identified the pivotal roles of the teacher- librarian in promoting reading culture among the young ones. It regrets the general neglect of school libraries which would have been the bedrock of reading promotion in the country. The paper therefore, recommended the re-introduction of library science courses in Nigerian Colleges of Education for the training of quality teacher-librarians who would serve in primary and secondary schools in the country.
Introduction. Reading is an indispensable learning skill which lays the foundation for independent studies and prepares the child for higher educational opportunities. Scholars have proposed different definitions of reading. Dale (1976) defined it as the ability to glean meaning from printed symbols. Similarly, Ubahakwe (1984) explained that reading is an acquired art by individual over a period of suitable exposure and which demands for its efficiency, skill and a set of behaviour which is both linguistic and psycholinguistic. Reading therefore consists of complex psycholinguistic processes of identifications, mental integration research and application of written language symbols. It serves as a link between printed symbols and meaning attached to these symbols - thus achieving interaction between the author and the reader. Consequently, the National Policy on Education (2004) underscores the vital roles of reading in the over all intellectual development of the child when it provided that “state and local governments shall establish public libraries and actively promote readership …" In line with this Oyo State primary education board encourages the pupils in the state to "learn to read so that they can read to learn" (Adediran 2004). Despite these policy statements and effort by some state governments in developing libraries, reading culture is still at its lowest level among Nigerian children. Numerous literature lamenting low level of reading culture among Nigerians particularly the young ones exist. (Obah, 1980; Apeji, 1987; Maduhunsi, 1987; Daraman, 2000; Ojielo, 2001; Gojeh, 2004) Several reasons have been adduced for the problem. These reasons range from the notion that Africa as a continent has a deep oral tradition which
does not support reading (Ojielo 2001). Others contend that poor development of libraries and paucity of reading materials and lack of adequate reading environment in Nigerians school system stifle the growth of reading culture. While it is evident that available statistics bemoan the poor state of school libraries it is also true that even where there are school libraries, trained staff (teacher librarians) would not be employed to manage the library. This is evident in an investigation conducted by Gojeh (2004). The report reveals that of the 106 secondary schools in Kaduna State, 25 of them have good school libraries but only six professional librarians were employed. This fell short of the minimum standard in staffing of school libraries as recommended by Federal Ministry of Education (1992) of at least one professional librarian (teacher librarian) for every school library. To worsen the situation, all the Colleges of Education in Nigeria no longer run programmes in library science (JAMB 2007). Thus, the Colleges of Education that would have been fertile ground for the training of teacher librarian, no longer offer such courses. This paper therefore, tends to underscore the pivotal roles of the teacher librarian in promotion of reading culture among the Nigerian Youths. Who is a Teacher - Librarian? Teacher librarian is used to describe the professional who has both the training of a teacher and a librarian (Dike 2004). He/she has the requisite training as both a librarian and a teacher. According to Dike, a teacherlibrarian has large teaching roles to play as a school librarian. However, this is far from being a classroom teacher. Dike identified the following functions of a teacher librarian
Encouraging reading for pleasures
Providing access to books - that is exposing students to picture books, fictions magazines etc. Reading guidance - matching children with books Introducing story hours with children Apeji (1990) and Obah (1980) also stressed the crucial roles of the teacher librarian, pointing out that the selection of books for the library should be his major pre-occupation. Apeji noted that this will encourage recreational reading for pleasure. The teacher- librarian also collaborates with the classroom teacher in assisting the children to improve in classroom activities through reading. Problems of Developing Reading Culture among Nigerian Children Reading for recreational purposes has been identified as a good approach for language learning (Brush 1991). Unfortunately many Nigerian children lack the basic reading skills. This is not surprising as it has been established that Africans have an oral tradition. They would rather listen to a story instead of reading it. (Ojielo: 2001). Perhaps that explains the popularity of home video among Nigerian youths. The poor reading culture among Nigerian youths is further confirmed by UNICEF (1997). In a survey conducted on Nigerian primary school pupils, majority of the pupils surveyed scored less then 40 percent in reading comprehension text and scored higher in other tests such as numeracy and physical exercises. Consequently, Souza (1998) emphasized the inculcation of reading habits on the child at an early age. He pointed out that the home environment has a lot to do at this early stage. The home according to him helps to lay a solid foundation for reading among the children. Sadly enough, due to the harsh
economic condition in Nigeria, parents struggle and work almost round the clock to provide for the family up keep. Similarly, mothers who according to Souza influence reading development among children are often inhibited by high illiteracy rate among women in most developing countries. Owing to these factors, the development of reading culture is shifted to the school. The school also grapples with numerous problems antithetical to development of good reading culture. One of the greatest problems facing most schools is ill-equipped school libraries. Only few schools have good libraries while majority have limited dog-eared books locked up in few cupboards in the principal or head teacher's office. These poor conditions of school libraries have been reported in a number of literatures. (Otike, 1987; Daraman, 2000; Dike 2004) Souza provided an embarrassing statistics when he remarked that in most developing countries, there is one reading text for six children and regretted that even the available books are not easily accessible. Studies have also revealed that even when the ministries procure books for schools, vast quantities of the books hardly reach the classrooms. (Silanda: 2001). In Nigeria, it is common to find books with label "not for sale" in an open market and nobody raises any question. Another impediment to the development of reading culture among the children is that many of the available books are foreign books which do not meet the reading needs of Nigerian children. Aje cited in Daraman (2000) lamented that there seem to be inadequate children's literature written in our local background. In addition to this, the diction is often above the understanding of the children. This is in contrast with Achebe's (1981) position that children's literature should reflect the children's immediate environment. According to him, instead of the child reading about other cultures, he reads materials based on his environment which stimulates his
imaginative and creative thinking and in addition reduces the prejudices of European writers against Africa. Reading for pleasure becomes desirable when the reader sees his/her culture and his immediate environment from the book he reads. Recreational reading is very essential in development of reading habit since it is a gate way to independent studies. Busch (1991) has identified several advantages of reading for leisure. According to him, children can directly apply the newly gained knowledge for their own and for how long he wants to read. Similarly, reading privately and extensively is particularly important where an intensive and close reading technique dominates classroom procedures as it may help keep a reading interest alive. Strategies for Improving Reading Culture among the Youths. The teacher librarian being the bridge between library resources and the children has pivotal roles to play in adoption of sustainable strategies that would promote reading culture among the youths. He is familiar with the school curriculum and often interacts directly with the children, the classroom teachers and the school administration. This paper therefore proposes the following strategies for the teacher-librarian in ensuring the inculcation of good reading habits among the school children. Selection of Relevant Materials: The teacher-librarian by his training is in a very good position to select books that would appeal to the interest of the children considering their age and socio-religious background. At this level, the young ones should be encouraged to read for pleasure and not mainly to pass examination. However, this does not mean that core books for the subjects they study should be sacrificed for pleasure reading. The teacherlibrarian should select juvenile novels, picture books, magazines and other
similar materials that are likely to encourage pleasure reading. Children like fairy tales and myths because they arouse the imagination and critical thinking. Apart from this, they tell story of a world which anything can happen and not even the sky is the limit. They like stories about adventures, satires and heroes. The challenge is on the teacher-librarian for appropriate selection when the money is released. It is a huge responsibility because he has to justify the money released and at the same time satisfy the reading interest of the children. A good choice may open up years of reading pleasure while a careless choice may lead to the growth of life-long reading block. Allocation of library period in the school time table: The teacher librarian with the co-operation of the schools authority should allocate time for reading in the school time table. This period should be used in the library where the teacher librarian would match the children with books of their interest and monitor them carefully. A minimum of two periods should be allocated to each in a week. Records of the books each child reads on each period should be kept. Effort here should be stressed on pleasure reading. Therefore, the teacher librarian will assist the children by selecting novels and magazine that suits the age and cultural background. The classroom teacher should complement the librarian's efforts by creating time in the class when the children should be encouraged to discuss what they have read with other children in the class. Marks are to be awarded and this should reflect in the report of booklet of the children at the end of the term. Organizing Story Hour for Children: Dike (2004) has identified story hour for children as an important task of the teacher -librarian. A shrewd teacher-librarian should use the story hour to encourage pleasurable reading among the children. To tell a good story is not always easy. It requires very
good skills and organizational ability to attract the attention of the listener. Therefore, the teacher librarian must posses the required skills and ability to organize the children so that their attention will be sustained within the period of the story. Story hours can be an effective method when the teacher-librarian gives a group of children the summary of a story in a novel - thus arousing their interest to read the novel themselves. To create suspense he may decide to omit vital part of the story and encourage the children to find out how the story ended by reading the novel. In junior primary schools, the teacherlibrarian could organize the children and explain their picture books in a story form. The use of film shows: The teacher -librarian can positively use films to improve the reading habits of the children. Currently, film makers are skillfully developing many of the novels and plays into films for educational purposes. A resourceful teacher-librarian would avail himself of this opportunity in helping the children improve the reading habits. In doing this, care must be taken to see that watching film does not replace, reading. The teacher librarian should give assignment from the reading text which will likely compel them to read the text. A strategy that would be an inter-play of reading and watching film should be employed. A likely pattern could be; the teacher-librarian summaries the story in the novel or play then he encourages the children to read it and finally the film show which will now give a clearer knowledge of the book. The objective of film show should be to in inculcate the habit of reading on the children. Formation of Readers Clubs:
Children often learn more effectively through pear groups and healthy competition. Readers club is one organization that the teacher-librarian can wisely use to promote reading habits on Nigerian youths. The school management in trying to develop healthy social lives in the school should include readers club as one of the associations in the school. The teacher librarian should be made to be the coordinator (patron) of this club. The pre-occupation of the club is to encourage reading among the youths. Therefore, the role of the teacher-librarian should be to articulate good programmes that would improve the reading culture of the group. How the teacher librarian does this is dependent on his tact and shrewdness. One good way of achieving this is selecting good novels, magazines articles and other reading materials that would encourage pleasurable reading. When this is done, individuals are given these materials to read and then present their stories in their meeting which may likely be fortnightly. The secretary of the club should be encouraged to keep records of who read what and when for evaluation of their programmes. Another method of the encouraging the children to read is allowing the children to read poems and plays aloud in their meeting so that such literary works will be better appreciated. The plays they read can also be presented in a drama to the entire school occasionally. The teacher-librarian who has what it takes may employ other strategies to make the club livelier and very rewarding. Conclusion/Recommendations: The literature showed that reading culture among Nigerians is generally low. It is more disheartening that not much is being done to improve the situation and the youths are not been encouraged to read. The general decay in the education sector and total neglect of school librarians are not helping matters. To worsen the situation, librarians particularly teacher-librarian who would manage the few existing school
libraries are becoming extinct as Colleges of Education in the country no longer run programmes that would train teacher librarians. This paper has attempted to identify the crucial roles of the teacher librarians not only in management of school libraries but in inculcating good reading habits among Nigerian youths. The socio-economic and scientific growth of any nation is dependent in the ability of the people to read. Therefore, every effort should be made to save the endangered species the teacher librarians. Good Reading culture among Nigeria youths is critical to the national development and realization of the millenium development goals. Therefore it is important that enough energy should be dissipated to address the problem. This paper therefore recommends as follows: 1. 2. The reintroduction of Library Science courses in Nigerian Colleges of There shall be provision of school libraries in primary and secondary Education so that a large number of teacher-librarians would be trained. schools in the country. These libraries should be stocked with the right books and managed by trained teacher-librarians. 3. 4. Government should formulate a sound National Book Policy and Publishing houses should be encouraged to publish materials that will make adequate arrangement for the implementation of the policy. appeal to the reading interest of the young ones. The pace setter series of Macmillan in the 1980s should be resuscitated and many more publishing houses should publish primary school texts. 5. 6. Parents should be encouraged to join hands in inculcation of reading Radio and television adverts should be used to enlighten the public on REFERENCES habit in the children at home. the need for reading.
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