PRESS STATEMENT: LIBRARY LITERACY PROGRAM ONLINE DISCOURSE

Press Statement: Rekindling a Reading Culture in Nigerian School Children

                                                                                                                …Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader  

Recently, poor reading habits have been imbibed in Nigerian children as reading is not considered a relevant leisure activity. Nigeria has been rated by the World Culture Score Index as one of the countries in the world with the lowest reading culture. One of the pertinent factors contributing to the poor reading culture in Nigeria is poor library facilities and at times, the absence of libraries in most primary schools. AfriGrowth Foundation developed the Library Literacy Program to enhance literacy of children and reawaken the slumbering reading culture in Nigeria, via the provision of library facilities in public primary schools. Since the inception of this program in 2012, AfriGrowth Foundation has refurbished and established libraries in 41 Local Education Authority (LEA) primary schools located in underserved communities in Abuja FCT, Ondo, Kwara Delta and Nasarawa States; donated over 80,500 books to the school libraries; and trained over 700 teachers in the effective use of school libraries and conducting veritable reading activities, impacting the lives of over 45,000 school children.

AfriGrowth Foundation affirms that the culture of reading must be activated in children from a very young age. On this background, AfriGrowth Foundation, on February 18, 2021, facilitated an Online Discourse on the theme, Rekindling a Reading Culture for Nigerian School Children. The Virtual Meeting provided a platform for key stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors to discuss the dwindling reading culture and its interrelation to the slow pace of development of the Children’s literacy in Nigeria with the view of proffering effective solutions premised on the improved collaboration, partnership and synergy. Invited resource persons included, Dame Pauline K. Tallen, Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission, Prof. Lenrie Olatokunbo Aina, Chief Executive Officer, National Library of Nigeria and Mrs. Maryam Aliko Mohammed, Executive Director Modalali.

The Virtual Meeting, which commenced promptly at 2.00pm, was indeed most strategic, as it initiated a productive and active discourse on how key stakeholders partner on concrete programs, which will reverse this ugly trend to rekindle and sustain a reading culture in Nigerian school children. Mrs. Dayo Keshi, President and Founder, AfriGrowth Foundation formally opened the curtain for discussions. In her opening remarks, she applauded all key stakeholders, resource persons and participants for their attendance and participation in the Meeting. She pointed out that reading is a basic life skill as well as the cornerstone of a child’s success in school and throughout one’s lifetime. The Library Literacy Program developed by AfriGrowth Foundation, encourages the act and art of reading and also trains teachers on how to engage the pupils in conducting efficient reading activities. She stated that as AfriGrowth Foundation believes in the power of partnership and collaboration, as the Online Discourse was designed to create an interactive forum, in which stakeholders and partners can converge and actively discuss veritable strategies that will alleviate the current poor reading culture.

Dr. Mrs. Anthonia Akpabio Ekpa, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, who represented the Honourable Minister, gave the first contribution. She said that reading is a worldwide phenomenon, which has the capacity to promote development, as well as instill discipline on an individual. One of the major avenues of acquiring information is by reading. She applauded AfriGrowth Foundation for its Library Literacy Program and pledged the support of her Office in subsequent activities, anchored on rekindling the reading culture of school children.

On the aspect of the roles authors play in promoting a reading culture, Mrs. Maryam Aliko Mohammed, a reputable author, said that getting authors to address and interact with school children will go a long way in inspiring them to read. She praised the Foundation for a competition in storytelling that it organized during the lockdown period last year, in which she served as a judge. She said that many children submitted entries, which not only encouraged them to read, but also inspired their creativity. She encouraged AfriGrowth Foundation to facilitate more of such programs, which will engage children positively. She also stated that the issue of rekindling a reading culture in children was a collective responsibility and encouraged all stakeholders to forge partnership in this feat.

Mr. Shuaibu, Head of Unit, Educational Support Services, who represented the Executive Secretary, Universal basic Education Commission, gave a brief overview of the different programs coordinated by the Commission in promoting a reading culture. He said that the Commission procured and distributed reading and instructional material, which aid learning to different schools. The Commission was equally involved in the training of teachers in various states so as to encourage and promote reading culture in school children in Nigeria. He lauded the Foundation and said the Commission looked forward to a more productive partnership.

Mr. Anthony, who represented the Chief Executive Officer, National Library of Nigeria, spoke on some programs that have been facilitated by National library to sustain a reading habit in Nigerian children. He said the National Library organized series of reading competitions and spelling bees, which involved school children. Presently, the National Library has programs and activities running in thirty-one (31) states in Nigeria. The Virtual Meeting was highly interactive and participatory with laudable inputs from the resource persons. From the discourse, some suggested strategies included:

  • Refurbishment and establishment of more library facilities in primary schools;
  • Exposure of school children to more books, which invoke interest and creativity;
  • Creation of interactive sessions between authors and school children;
  • Conduct of competitions that will encourage creative reading;
  • Training teachers on improved coordination of reading activities in schools; and
  • Promoting and ensuring the use of library time in primary schools.

As the curtains were drawn on the Online Discourse, Mrs. Dayo Keshi thanked all the resource persons for their plausible inputs. She said that the conversation on rekindling a reading culture in Nigerian school children was a continuous one, which should be sustained and championed by all stakeholders. She said that AfriGrowth Foundation will remain ever focused and resolute in its goal of instituting a reading culture in Nigerian school children, via its Library Literacy Program.

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