STORIES, READING AND CULTURE.
By: Maggie Mungai
Often, we talk of the importance of nurturing a reading culture. Yet we sometimes forget just how much culture influences reading. We also forget how important stories are in the preservation of our culture.
Simply put, culture is the way of life of a people. It is in what they grow or produce. What they believe in. What they pass forward. It is in their language, their music, their food. The Brazilians are known for football and dancing. The Jamaicans are known for reggae music. Africa is known for wildlife and enormous diversity. And Kenya, Kenya is known for nyama choma.
All of these are small aspects of whole countries and continents. But they are part of what makes each of them so amazing. Our culture is what makes us unique. And our culture is a huge part of what we embrace and who we become. Our culture plays a huge role in our appreciation for reading. Once upon a time, our great-great-great-grandparents did not have access to books or phones or tablets like we do. But they had their own version of reading. They sat down around fires and told stories and in this way, poems, proverbs, riddles and stories were passed down from one generation to another. As our world changed and formal schools developed, these traditions faded slowly and in their place, authors like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and so many more put their stories down on paper and in the storybooks that we read today. Through books, we know about the culture of different places, even if we have never set foot there. Through tales, we are introduced into other people’s uniqueness and are able to appreciate it as we appreciate our own. Through stories, we keep our cultures alive.
Reading and culture are inter-woven and interdependent. Our culture will determine whether reading is encouraged and whether it is actively developed through books and libraries and story-telling and yes, especially through the digital devices that we have now such as tablets and laptops.
Reading (and writing), on the other hand, will stand as one of the most powerful channels to explore and share our culture as a country, continent and world.
May we all nurture a reading culture.