Read Your Way

Guyana joined in celebrating World Book Day 2024 themed “Read Your Way”. Each year, this day is observed on April 23. This year’s theme emphasises nurturing a love for reading across all ages. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), this date was chosen as great writers have their birth anniversary and death anniversary on this date, including William Shakespeare, Garcilaso de la Vega, and Miguel de Cervantes. The significance of this day lies in its ability to introduce new authors and emphasise the importance of books in our lives. UNESCO also seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright on this day.
Here in Guyana, there have been numerous book mobile libraries, and more so, there was one donated by Rotary Club to the National Library. A few decades ago, book mobile libraries, an extension service of the National Library, were scheduled fixtures in parts of the country. The targeted age group of children from out of town, who didn’t have access to the National Library, looked forward once a week in many instances to the arrival of the vehicle, laden with a variety of reading materials, be it a pop-up fairy tale, a simple fiction, or something considered more intense for that grouping.
Entering the vehicle evoked a tremendous sense of excitement, after having waited patiently in the orderly lines. The process, accommodated by courteous and helpful staff, was very simple: borrow a book, read and return by the next visit. Crucial to the success of the service was an interest in reading, developed by both the parents and children. Then there was a prevailing passion for reading, which was serviced by various bookshops within the city and by paid book-lending stalls in some municipal markets.
Access to books was, therefore, not a major issue; affordability was a different matter. Also, for many during that period, most, if not all, high school text books needed were provided free by the Government, making it easier for the children, and allowing for more focus. Friendly reading competitions became popular, and probably can be equated to a social media challenge today.
One can argue that the children then were not exposed to the plethora of technological devices evident today. A similar argument can be made about evolutionary advances and the impact on all, including children, and their passions. Some have put it bluntly: that as a result of these advancements, more distractions are, therefore, created today when compared to the past, citing the lack in variety then.
Others would posit that despite the absence of technology-related activities, the children in the past played a variety of folk games as part of the process of enjoyment and passing time. Obviously, while there are compelling arguments from both sides, there is the general concern that the passion for reading has drastically waned, and that today’s children are not reading – either enough or at all – when they do appear to be confined to just what needs to be done school-wise.
Again, this is not suggesting every child, as clearly some are involved in extensive reading. Technology, however, does facilitate reading, and even the option of listening to a book. Of course, many would be financially challenged to access these options, but the bottom line is: the option to read is part of the technological evolution. That said, some are adamant in their belief that the very technology is responsible for the seemingly scant interest in reading.
Many are of the opinion that one consequence of that said evolution is the reduction in the number of bookstores and book stalls in some markets. Given that it may not be inaccurate to state that fewer books are now available today for access, one can easily state that’s an indication of the decline of interest in reading; however, it may be as a result of the impact of technological advances on related businesses.
Whatever the reasons, the book mobile library is important, not just to reach persons who may not have access to books, but to inspire and drive interest in reading. While the library would be challenged by the more attractive technological options, it needs to be encouraged for possible expansion.
We should aim to encourage children to explore the pleasures of reading books.