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STRATEGIES FOR PROMOTION OF READING CULTURE

AMONG NIGERIAN CHILDREN BY TEACHER-LIBRARIAN

By
Ifeanyi J. Ezema.
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 teacher-
librarian 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 teacher-
librarian 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 teacher-
librarian 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. The reintroduction of Library Science courses in Nigerian Colleges of
Education so that a large number of teacher-librarians would be trained.
2. There shall be provision of school libraries in primary and secondary
schools in the country. These libraries should be stocked with the right books
and managed by trained teacher-librarians.
3. Government should formulate a sound National Book Policy and
make adequate arrangement for the implementation of the policy.
4. Publishing houses should be encouraged to publish materials that will
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. Parents should be encouraged to join hands in inculcation of reading
habit in the children at home.
6. Radio and television adverts should be used to enlighten the public on
the need for reading.
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