Books offer bridges between the past and present. They also play important roles in contributing to one’s knowledge. The importance of reading fictions and non-fiction, as well as the crucial roles reading play in society are appraised every April 23, as the World Book and Copyright Day is marked. In this report, STELLA OBI writes on the importance of books. Her report:
OF ALL human inventions, book remains one of the most valuable which reveals the past, the present and peep into the future.
It is in recognition of the extra-ordinary importance of the book that the United Nations earmarked April 23, every year as World Book Day. This is to appraise the roles of books as well as proffer solution to the problems of the dearth of books.
World Book Day is celebrated by United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and other related organisations every year. Also called the World Book and Copyright Day, it is an occasion to promote the joy of books and the art of reading. It was selected by UNESCO to pay tribute to great literary figures.
World Book Day is celebrated worldwide to recognise the scope of books which are seen as a link between the past and the future, a bridge between cultures and generations. On this day, UNESCO and organisations representing publishers, booksellers and libraries select World Book Capital for a year to maintain the celebrations of books and reading. For the year 2019, Sharjah, United Arab Emirate was chosen as the World Book Capital. It will be preceded by Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in the year 2020.
Through this day, UNESCO aims to champion books and celebrate creativity, diversity and equal access to knowledge. This day has become a platform for people across the globe and especially the stakeholders of the book industry including authors, publishers, teachers, librarians, public and private institutions, humanitarian NGOs and the mass media to come together to promote literacy and help everyone to have access to educational resources.
The theme for this year, which is the 24th edition, is centred around celebrating literature and reading with a particular focus on enhancing and protecting indigenous languages. As a vector of knowledge, books bring people together around a story and a common heritage while revealing their specificities through different cultures, identities and languages. The focus on this topic is fully in line with the celebration of the International Year of the Indigenous Languages.
Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO sums up the theme of 2019 through these words; “Books are a form of cultural expression that lives through and as part of a chosen language. Each publication is created in a distinct language and is intended for a language-specific reading audience. A book is thus written, produced, exchanged, used and appreciated in a given linguistic and cultural setting. This year we highlight this important dimension because 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, led by UNESCO, to reaffirm the commitment of the international community in supporting indigenous peoples to preserve their cultures, knowledge and rights.”
Speaking on World Book Day and Copyright Day in a workshop to mark the event at Kano State, Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), John Asein, urged Nigerians, especially youths, to reduce the time spent on phones, and in its place, cultivate good reading habits and culture.
He said reading unlocks the potentials in us and fires our creative talents to innovate and build our society, adding that the commission would continue to develop policies and strategies to facilitate a culture of respect for authorship and copyright works.
Today, books can be classified into various forms, ranging from children books, professional, general interest as well as literacy books of fiction and non-fictions nature.
As useful as these various forms of books are, one problem associated with book is preservation.
The inability of many people especially in Africa and Nigeria in particular to properly preserve the book has badly affected the longevity of many valuable books.
A situation which often made it impossible for information seekers to easily obtain those required information without much stress.
Although, the new Universal Basic Education, UBE, is packaged with the provision of books for pupils at the Primary and Junior Secondary School, government must strive towards providing books to those in senior secondary school.
While the poor state of the economy cannot be totally divorced from the reasons for the fall in the reading habit of many Nigerians, scarcity of books could as well be regarded as another major factor.
As such, the prohibitive cost of books in the country can be traced to the fact that majority of components for the production of books are imported from either Europe or America.
Components such as ink, paper and even the printing equipment are all imported.
Apart from this, the invention of the compact disc, the e-mail and the internet has significantly reduced both the purchase of books and the reading culture especially among youths.
Perhaps, these aforementioned scenarios culminated in the reduction in book writing and publishing local writers and publishers.
From whatever perspective one looks at the situation, the fact remains that we cannot do without books.
And this is why the federal, states and local governments must take the issue of availability of books at affordable prices seriously.
The National Assembly as a matter of urgent attention should promulgate a law which will mandate the executive to earmark funds annually for the production of books for all strata of the society.
This will encourage our local writers to be more active in the process of nation building through writing.
Above all, the documentation of our ways of life, culture and the components making Nigeria in book form will make us to know ourselves better.
This is the only everlasting legacy which we can leave for the incoming generation.
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