With revolution in technology reading habits are changing across the glob, even e-versions of newspapers and online news resources have reduced the popularity of paper versions of newspapers. People have access to online newspapers early in the morning thus they prefer not to buy newspapers. Associated Press-Ipsos poll reveals that 1 in 4 adults read no books in 2006. Yes, that’s 25% of the adults are reading zero books. In Pakistan there was a culture of reading books even if electricity was not available and people had to read books in street lights or candle lights. Grandparents used to read books in front of children to develop habits of reading books within children, similarly mothers used to tell stories to babies out from baby books. There were school and public libraries quenching the thrust of reading. There was a time when books were supposed to be the best presents and used to be good friends; collecting good books was hobby for several and having huge collection of good books was snobish.
However it has been noticed that booking reading is becoming obsolete and CD, DVD, and Internet culture is becoming more and more popular. Even a trend of reading soft copies or e-books of printed books is gaining momentum. Pakistan has too entered in the digital age and with emergence of more and more e-media and blurring traditional media has weakened the bond between the book and its readers. The book culture could have been furthered by the digitized versions of printed books as everyone can not afford expensive original foreign titles. However easy accessibility, large numbers of e-versions of books on very nominal fee, provision of unlimited access to e-books, with facility of downloading on desktops for references are the major factors playing roles in changing the habit of reading. Unfortunately the traditional media is losing its attractiveness. Internet and book reading separately have their benefits so drawing a comparison between one medium and other on basis of change in reading habit never ends with a conclusion that internet is entirely incorrect thing to be in. However it is imperative to realize the importance of book reading.
Changing trend in reading habits have effected our youth in a negative manner. Sir Francis bacon once said that “Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact” So reading books gives capability to speak and express yourself. A very small number of the students of secondary and high schools read books other than their text books; students who read books they prefer either PDF versions of books or try to find the DVDs of books. USA being the largest user of internet and computers but still there is a huge number of people who read book. We can find people reading books in cafes, schools, libraries, bus stops, trains, and airplanes. More than a million books are sold each day. For the US people Reading books are not dead yet. Some people prefer reading from books than from reading off computers. People can actually hold books, and they don’t hurt eyes like computers do. According to a well verse phenomenon in favor of internet says that previously no sources to access information was available thus only books were referred.
Reading books is still a great ‘brain tool’, helping people of all ages to learn and develop important life skills, in terms of education, self improvement, positive life choices and all round well-being. A lot of conclusive evidences are available proving the links between book reading and achievement. Malcolm Dixon, who commented that ‘It is surprising that books matter.’ It can be surprising to the parents who do not compel their children to read books
What book reading can do to youth? Reading books have both mental and physical benefits, psychiatrists believe that book reading keeps mind active. Developing good reading skills produces the quality of assimilating the content. Reading is an active mental process – Unlike TV, books engage brain and enhances creativity. Teachers at all levels recommend reading books for mental growth and because it is a fundamental skill builder, books help clarify difficult subjects. Books provide information that goes deeper than just classroom discussion. Books elaborates on what one takes as small chunks of information from magazines, Internet posts or e-Mails; thus books make the focus and concentration better. Book reading makes students disciplined and scheduled. Book reader is a problem solver and expert on the topics he or she reads that translates into higher self esteem. Book reading exposes pupil to a huge world of new words and gives an insight of etymology. Knowing about new cultures and places in inevitable for students of elementary, high and secondary school children thus Books can expand horizons by providing information and are good source of education. Where formal education requires time commitments, books have no late-bells or hourly commitments. Books are cheap entertainment and students can learn at their own pace. Books are portable and can be taken to anywhere.
Talking about health benefits reading requires remembering details, facts and figures and in literature, plot lines, themes and characters. Many studies show if memory is not used properly it starts decaying abnormally. Crossword puzzles are an example of a word game that staves off Alzheimer’s. Reading, although not a game, helps one stretch memory muscles in a similar way. Books for professionals contain arguments for or against the actions within. Good books help student rational and they can differentiate between right and wrong. This deep and wide wisdom that books provide students are less apt to make mistakes. It has been assumed that books are good source for child’s language skills and intellectual development. Several researches have been conducted showing that book reading is indeed associated with a child’s use of language and giving new details about how the variety of books reading impacts linguistic development.
Brian Tracy has said one way to become an expert in a chosen field is to read 100 books on the subject. He also said by continuing the same for 5 years one will become an international expert. Most of all books reading on an interesting subject stops people from being bored. Book reading if turns into a habit will reduce stress. People retuning from work turn on TV are going from work stress to crime stress. The plethora of the digital gadgets including flashing lights, beeps, boops and ring-a-dings that burn up computing lives, relaxation is important and book reading is ultimate option.
Books have capability of changing lives just by brining modern thought processes and being free from old habitual patterns. Lots and lot of success literature is available for example “Seven habits of successful people” by Stephen R. Covey and “Awakening the giant within” by Anthony Robbins are the acclaimed writings to change the lives of people.
We can not blame only Digitized era for this declining trend in book reading; in case of Pakistan there are several significant issue including lack of Public libraries, Quality content, Quality writers, book fairs, reading clubs and writing competitions, encouragement at school levels to read books other than course books. Public libraries have been lively places for students and professionals. Old timers can elaborate the importance of those public libraries. In every neighborhood there used to be small one room local library. However that trend no more exists. Partly because of the decline in reading habits and people just don’t find it lucrative enough to invest in. In 70s Shahkar Book Club started a novel idea of re printing books in shape of magazines, it was revolutionary idea however was closed because good writers were victimized by inertia and attention of the readers were diverted towards the sensational and colorful features. This club started translating bestsellers from various languages of the world into Urdu and reproduced books in shape of thin easily handed magazines. It is the dire need of time to initiate these kinds of step to keep the book culture alive.
National Book Foundation (NBF) in this regard is endeavoring promote book-reading culture in the country. According to the high officials of National Book Foundation; their efforts are yielding positive results as the number of book readers has increased in the recent years. For promotion of reading culture in Pakistan NBF has devised few schemes including the book clubs that are considered to be the most popular development scheme in Pakistan Though not a new phenomenon, reading clubs are a breath of fresh air into the dying book culture. According to the website of NBF, Books are provided to members at 50% discount in 47 important cities. The rest of the half is paid by the NBF. Books can be obtained on 55% discount from NBF Bookshops under this scheme. Furthermore Printed copies of the selected manuscripts and books for children are purchased for free distribution to school libraries all over the country. Cash awards are given to the authors of the best books. Newspaper book reviews are good source to know about upcoming books by renowned authors. Reading clubs in School s, colleges and universities also provide platforms to students for discussing books.
Writing competitions are organized on regular basis within the students with an aim to enhance children’s knowledge regarding diversified cultural readings by NBF. Such competitions help parents to encourage children and develop their interest in reading and learning material. Also Braille books are provided to the visually disabled persons, almost free of cost. The braille books include Holy Quran with Urdu translation which is one of its kinds in the world, Bang-e-Dara, Bal-e-Jabriel along with over 108 other publications of national importance. On governmental level book reading culture is encouraged and first International Book Fair was held in Karachi and Lahore last year at the expo centre and it was well received by the public at large despite the fact that all the books were originals and were highly priced. People crowded the premises even if they didn’t really buy much. The sad thing to note was that the Indian publishers had a very impressive collection of reference books on various subjects, while one finds it very difficult to find books on those topics by Pakistani publishers.
There are also the annual book fairs held at various places especially in schools, colleges and universities. However these book fairs are being politicized by student organizations for vested interests e.g. a grand academic show of the Punjab University “Book Fair” 2008 was expected to receive attention of students and the book lovers from across the provincial metropolis, this fair was organized under police deployment because Jamiat was prevented from holding an illegal and unauthorized event on varsity premises.
Unfortunately a dearth of good writers has created a void and there is a small number of writers who are genuinely motivated and encouraged. There are not many incentives available in recognition of young writers thus small number of good writers actually ventures into the field when the encouragement is meager. The government, the NGOs and the intellectuals hardly ever take the initiative to encourage young writers. There are still a few committed souls who work tirelessly to make a place for themselves in the literature deprived country. It is suggestive for the Pakistanis to develop habit of reading and writing for keeping themselves alive in the pages of history.