We should strengthen our reading practices

06May 2021
The Guardian
We should strengthen our reading practices

There is much more that can be done to improve reading culture in Tanzania. Perhaps the future lies in the grassroots organisations that are working hard to develop and sustain it.

Many studies have been done to explore the reading culture as it exists today in Tanzania with an eye towards  factors that contribute to reading culture and how they have manifested within Tanzanian society. Researches have revealed that there was a relative absence of reading culture among Tanzanians and that the factors influencing this state of reading were multiple and varied.

To better understand the reading culture, or lack thereof, it is also important to examine how libraries, literacy, publishing, and the book industry have all played a historical role in shaping the culture. These factors as well as cultural barriers should be explored in order to illuminate reading practices in Tanzania. Ideas around reading as resistance and grassroots organisations as agents of change ought  also  to discussed towards a critique of hegemonic systems and conversation around community building.

While there have been some studies that assessed the current state of libraries, book industry, and reading, much of that work was conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, with very little published in recent years that matches their depth and breadth.. This broad examination of reading culture looks closely at the influence of these entities on the information behaviour and practice of Tanzanians through a lens that privileges Africana critical thought.

Very few studies exist that tell us about contemporary reading culture in Tanzania and the obstacles that keep Tanzanians from reading. While some may disagree whether there is or is not a national reading culture, the general consensus is that there are significant barriers to overcome in order for Tanzanians to strengthen their reading practices. Reading is often an indicator for and impactor of other things such as literacy, education, recreation, etc. which signifies the importance of understanding the culture and how it affects the community.

Libraries, publishers, booksellers, organisations, schools, and more are all vital in strengthening Tanzania’s reading culture and all have a role to play to ensure that reading is more than a task to be undertaken for higher education. In the end, promoting reading culture for leisure and pleasure will have a long-term positive affect on education which can only benefit the nation. But it is important to examine how the country got where it is and what can be done to make the necessary changes that will transform reading culture for the betterment of Tanzania and its people.

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day, or International Day of the Book, is an annual event organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright. The first World Book Day was celebrated on 23 April in 1995, and continues to be recognized on that day. A related event in the United Kingdom and Ireland is observed in March.[1]

The original idea came from the Catalan “Dia del Llibre” or day of the Book celebrated in Catalonia each April 23rd. In 1995 UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on 23 April, as the date is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors.  (In a historical coincidence, Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date — 23 April 1616 — but not on the same day, as at the time, Spain used the Gregorian calendar and England used the Julian calendar; Shakespeare actually died 10 days after Cervantes died, on 3 May of the Gregorian calendar).

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