Dawn News

The dying culture of reading

THIS refers to Zubeida Mustafa’s article ‘The pleasure of reading’ (May 9). Books undisputedly play an unparalleled role in shaping the destinies of both individuals and nations alike and nothing guides man more effectively than books.

However, it is a sad reflection that amongst other positive social values the culture of reading has also persistently been declining across the country. As a result, we are growing more intolerant and biased in our social behaviours which is also indicative of our intellectual decay.

The reading progress of the country can be gauged from the number of copies of books brought out in the market.

According to an estimate, hardly a book runs over the three figure mark.

In an interview published in Herald’s July 2011 edition, Hoori Noorani of Maktaba-i-Danyal says that in Pakistan a bestseller book runs around 5,000 copies. Although it is amazing keeping in view the nominal ratio of readership, the figure is quite low against the huge population of the country.

No more are the days when bookselling was regarded as a profitable business in Pakistan and people were in the habit of reading for recreation and pleasure across the country.

Books were not only part of every household but they were discussed in social gatherings too. Lamentably, the circle of book buyers is now reduced to a limited one, as books are not something fascinating for the people anymore. Nowadays people prefer roaming through shopping malls rather than visiting bookshops.

Austin Phelps once said: “Wear the old coat and read the new book.” But in our part of the world people wear the newest (dearest) of coats and even don’t read the oldest (cheapest) of books. They have become more exhibitionists in their attires and costumes, and intellectual pursuit has almost tuned out of their life.

The root of the problem turning ours into a non-reading society lies in our flawed education system. The fallacious curriculum doesn’t offer any room for general reading and creative writing.

Teachers just following the syllabus are rarely found motivating students towards general reading to acquire in-depth knowledge. As a result, most of the students are turned exam-oriented. They never read to develop ideas and expand the horizons of their vision but just to get through their papers.

To revive the diminishing reading culture what we immediately need is to inculcate the love for books in our children to lay the foundation of a book-reading society. Besides, an extended network of public libraries and readers clubs can rejuvenate this habit.

Likewise, instituting book fairs, reading festivals and literary galas on a regular basis would yield us the desired result.

Moreover, a media campaign can also play a vital role in rescuing this tattering culture. Keeping in view the effectiveness of its message, it can safely be assumed that the electronic media can serve as a catalyst. Ironically, it broadcasts a wide range of programmes for a diverse nature of viewers, ranging from fashion-conscious people to food lovers but lamentably offers nothing to satisfy the appetite of bibliophiles.

There shouldn’t be two opinions that books discussed and recommended by writers and intellectuals on TV can relatively get a wider range of readership as compared to those reviewed or discussed in the print media as the former has a huge number of viewers in comparison with the few readers of the latter.

FAZAL BALOCH Lecturer, Urdu Govt Atta Shad Degree College Turbat

Comments (2) Closed

May 18, 2012 10:22pm
The advent of internet and studying just for the sake of obtaining degrees to get jobs has made people lose interest in books. Other reasons for lack of reading books is their high price and faster lives. People who don't have enough to fill their tummies cannot be expected to read expensive books. However, local Urdu digests are doing good to fight back the present phenomena adversely affecting the habit of book reading. Personally I used to be a bookworm but have ceased to be so after I learnt using computers some years ago. Most of the stuff we need is easy to surf and browse on the internet ......but notwithstanding this I still love books...good books with new ideas and not the crap mostly published nowadays.
Asad Malik
May 19, 2012 02:18am
Excellent article, pointing out a lack of culture and refinement which is prevalent in our society. Unfortunately people now judge 'progressiveness' by appearances more than intellectual prowess. People have become more and more materialistic and our pseudo culture of partying and socializing is more sought after than a good book. It's a shame that people twice my age have read half the number of books I read by the time I was done with A levels.