The Practice of Reading
Early memories of storytelling was sitting out in a group in the front yard every other evening during the summers that brought relatives together. We’d sit on large mats made of plastic on the ground, causing our butts to feel the heat that have been absorbed by the soft concrete during the day. We never complained. Drinks made from cold water and a sachet of powdered juices that we bought for only GMD3 from the corner shop would sit beside us, plastic cups around it. Sometimes boiled groundnuts accompanied the juice, but I always preferred roasted corn. I hadn’t a care in the world that it always left dark flakes on and in-between my teeth
The stories always started from the eldest while the rest of us sat and listened in awe and amazement, or fear and anxiety. Never though, did we not enjoy them. They told stories we knew were fiction but our imagination allowed us to almost believe it as true. Because as children, our beliefs and imaginations were all we had to keep us sane.
But then we grow up. We don’t come together in the summer anymore. We don’t sit in groups on plastic mats and listen to the elders tell us tales of yore or narrate their life experiences anymore. We become far too engulf with life to listen to stories. Those are now, for children. Those of us who are lucky to have loved the art of storytelling, become readers.
Books are every child’s birth right. World Book Day exists to encourage children to read for pleasure, and by doing this, we raise children who grow up to love to read books.
The fact of the power of written ideas communicated through reading is a foundational reason why some governments oppose free and honest communication. Illiterate people are easier to control and manipulate. They lack the ability do their own research and thinking. They rely on what they are told and how their emotions are swayed.
Words – spoken and written – are the building blocks of life. You are, right now, the result of words that you have heard or read and believed about yourself. What you become in the future will depend on the words you believe about yourself now. People, families, relationships, and even nations are built from words.
Many people who read today were once children who found pleasure and comfort in the company of words neatly printed on pages. You read about cities you’ve never been to, characters you find strange; some you fall in love with, cultures you admire, practices that go way beyond your sense of imagination.
And one day, you might find yourself in a foreign town or city, or maybe it’ll be a village, when suddenly, a dense feeling of strangeness washes itself over you. It stays a while, this feeling, creeping into your mind, your emotions, your sight. You begin to wonder its cause because usually, a new place is supposed to make you feel anything but such strangeness. But you’ll leave not knowing what it was.
Days later, when you are returning to where you know as home, it will occur to you. That the cause of that strangeness was never because of bad spirits. It was because once, long ago, you read about it in a book you will now try so hard to remember its title. Perhaps you read it so long ago as when you were seven.
Reading makes us tourists in many foreign lands from one sitting. It moves us. They do say, after all, reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.” - Charlie Munger
Author: Mariam Jobe