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City of Banjul
Monday, October 2, 2023

Reviving reading culture


The attitude has infected our schools. Our future leaders – our children – are growing up with even less attraction to books and serious reading. As Ousainou Jagne of Timbooktoo Bookshop succinctly stated in the recently released Dr Pierre Gomez documentary on Gambian literature: “People in The Gambia do not buy books; do not read.” Instead, they watch television, especially the addictive cartoon channels, surf the Internet for “chatting”, social networking, and so forth. Their “leisure” leaves them with little time to search for knowledge through books.


It has to be said that a nation whose young and old wallow in banalities, showing little quality interest in useful information and education is obviously doomed. What is interesting is the fact that there are some Gambians who have taken a bit of a lark at defaulting in critical times in search of knowledge. And worse, some ill-informed Gambians may not even know what acronyms are being used to mean some of our key government ministries. Clearly, one needs not to be an expert to know that our lack of appetite in reading has taken an ugly turn. 


This is because many people in various segments of our society do not read and are uninformed about happenings around them. Even some of the shakers and movers of our development confidently pontificate ill-digested concepts and impose them on us. These are mainly ideas that have already been overtaken by current knowledge.


In profound regards, the advancement of a nation does not depend on food alone. Throughout history, knowledge and consumable information have combined to affect a positive impact on development. Surely, our transformation as a people will clearly be dictated by our level of knowledge acquisition. 


We must make conscious efforts to return our citizenry to reading. We must re-ignite interest in the search for knowledge over the race for material acquisitions. Those who cannot read should not lead. Those who cannot read, cannot write because there is no knowledge to pass on to others, and no intellectual equipment with which to transmit it. We must support the work of our government and other private institutions that are girding up their loins to democratise a well-informed society.  


Our schools and libraries should be well-equipped and be able to draw attention to book reading activities in order to revamp the appetite of young people in reading. We need more libraries with books for the task ahead. Every support should be given to efforts to get our people to read. It starts with parents reading; the children would follow the example. Government, through policies, should ensure books are affordable.


A major challenge for younger readers is the distraction the internet serves. Mechanism should be put in place in order to electrify a new campaign to online reading of books, and use of virtual libraries.


Knowledge is power. Those who are blindly chasing money today would one day discover that those who took their time to pursue knowledge through close contact with books would decide what happens to society. They will be the hegemons of our development. 


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