Family Reading: A Way to Implant Reading Habit in Ghanaian Children

The subject of creating a reading culture among children, especially among Ghanaian children, has been one of commanding interest. Over the years, there has been mass upsurge by different bodies interested in promoting reading to find the best way to encourage as many children as possible to cultivate a life-long reading habit. The general interest is to ensure that children are offered reading pleasure. That is, the act of reading by children should be done with ease, fun and without compulsion. For this reason, organisations and institutions interested in promoting reading have sought to use innovative approaches to achieve this goal. It is based on this reason that the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC), an Agency under the Ministry of Education, has advocated a novel approach, i.e. Family Reading, as one of the surest ways of promoting reading in Ghana.

Interestingly, the act of reading has been perceived as a solitary act. That is, it is believed that reading is done individually in many parts of the world. For this reason, many people have even attributed the lack of interest in reading in the African context to the family system operated in many rural settings. The understanding is that since the exercise of reading is largely solitary, and the African environment is largely communal in nature, it becomes difficult for the African child to isolate him or herself to pick a book to read when the rest of the family are together engaging themselves in another activity. This issue has been described as one of the obstacles to the development of reading habit of children in the African setting.

Although there could be some merit in this argument, the same structure of family and community life could be used to promote and implant reading habit in the Ghanaian children. Thus, instead of seeing the family structure as a barrier to encouraging a culture of reading, it should rather be seen as a system that can be used to nurture a habit of reading that permeates every facet of society. Truly, in most African homes things are done on communal basis or in groups: eating, playing, dancing etc. The most popular meeting times, in the past and even in the present time, have been the period of telling stories in the family or in the community, especially the telling of Kwaku Ananse stories. This is the period family heads or elderly people in the family gather members together and narrate to them stories of old. The stories are told in dramatic and exciting ways to the pleasure of all, especially children. And it is the period no child seeks to miss.

This family structure offers one of the surest ways of making the art of reading become part of society. It is also important to state that the story books that are read in many homes today are not different from the stories that were told during story telling times many years ago. The only difference is that one exists orally and the other is written for reading. The only hurdle is to ensure that as many parents and children as possible will be able to read and enjoy the written text. When this culture of reading is nurtured early in the life of children they will grow with it and it will become part of them. In other words, reading together as a family, as stories were told in the past, will be a practice that will stay with many families and will be a culture in many homes which will be handed down from one generation to the other.

For this reason, in promoting a culture of reading among Ghanaians, especially school children, it is important that we do not exclude parents and guardians. Parents and guardians contribute significantly to the habit formation of children, which includes cultivating a life-long culture of reading. Especially in the African setting, periods before meal is served and the family goes to bed are times when stories are told and information shared. Most of these periods can be used to share a story. Children love it most when parents and guardians read to them. Parents can thus consciously make it their culture to always read a book to children or their wards before meal time or before the children go to bed. It is a habit they can help their children cultivate over time. For families that do not have parents or guardians who are in the position to read, such parents only need to create the necessary environment for the children to read. They can do their oral stories and help their wards to do the reading. There is always a way out whenever there is a will.

In conclusion, we can all contribute to making children in Ghana cultivate a life-long reading culture by first building that culture from home (family). The family becomes the first port of call when it comes to learning how to read. Second, when this habit of reading is formed, it will become a heritage that will transcend generations. Let us all get involved in making children cultivate a life-long reading culture.