World Culture: Reading and how to read more


A few years ago, I took a writing course on Coursera and wrote an essay titled “I WAS BORN TO WRITE, I THINK”. That serves as the frame for this article. I was also born to read.


I grew up in a strict home in the 1980s. My father believed children in our neighbourhood could be bad influence on me. That meant I could not mingle unsupervised. While I had older siblings, the wide age gap meant it was difficult for us to have common friends or interests. Well, so I thought.


My siblings regularly brought all sorts of novels home including the Mills and Boon series. I had little interest in the small paperbacks however. There were loads of bestsellers in the house; Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer were regular visitors in my house. As an eight year old child I made these authors my best friends. They became the common friends I had with my siblings.


My first bestseller was ‘Kane and Abel’. My young mind grappled with totally strange concepts. Regular references were made to dictionaries for me to get a grasp of the plot. With each fresh page, the grip of the story on my young mind became stronger and stronger. From that point on I read book after book. It often meant hiding in the kitchen at night with the lights on so no one would know where I was. Until I finished a book, I would not be at peace with myself.


From my house in Lagos, I swam in the Danube, took walks on the streets of St. Petersburg and I prowled the streets of London. I stood in there in 1941 as the Germans raced towards Moscow. And in the first week of December, it snowed. The Germans not dressed for the Russian winter froze, as did their equipment.  Winter did what the Russian Army failed to do, decimate the German Army.


I could be who I wanted to be every time. In my head, I saw no limits but possibilities. I realized I had a fertile mind. The seed of imagination had been planted. Books!


I went to Russia in 2008. The Volga and Neva River came to life. It was as if I had been there all my life. I was home. Not a stranger. The beauty of books.


Fast forward to 2018, I am involved in reading and reviewing books in and with a group. I have got to appreciate diverse backgrounds and its effects on the reading culture in our environment and we have had to find how to encourage those who were not introduced to reading early to get to read. The best way to inculcate the art of reading is to read. Trudge through the pages daily till your mind is forced to submission. The neophyte should start with short articles, journals and newspapers. This would be a foundation of being adventurous and reading across genres.


It helps to have monthly and annual target of books to read. My friend and I had a target of 100 books in 2017, minimum of 8 books a month. Difficult but possible, this would require stripping our lives of several activities including television and phone time. Every spare period would be spent reading. For November 2018, I have 3 great books already: Fela: This Bitch of a Life; The House of Rothschild: the World’s banker 1849 – 1999 and Shoe Dog. I await delivery of Oriri’s Plight.


Join a book club or have a reading accountability partner. Many of us tend to do more in communities, than alone. Having people to share experiences garnered from the pages might be motivation to read more and wide. With the advent of social media and electronic messaging, distance or geography do not have to be barriers.


Buy books and keep them around you. Buy and buy again. Make sure your excuse for not reading is lack of a book. My friend loves food, a lot. But he buys books before he food and it is no surprise that his collection of books is now an enviable treasure. Paying for books can be a motivation to read.


Finally, reading as a way of life is always an advantage. Always.


Want better education? Explore these options

I never try to let my schooling get in the way of my education

Mark Twain

What can undergraduate students or recent graduates (with less than five years work experience) do to enhance the quality of their seemingly or accurately ‘poor’ Nigerian education?

How can this target group enhance their employability prospects and general intellectual being with limited or non-existent funds?

This piece attempts to explore these questions succinctly.

In the first place, you must accept that education does not only occur in the classroom. There are other places where the mind can be improved. You will definitely learn more on your own than when you are shovel-fed by any institution of learning. As Stephen Downes said, we need to move beyond the ideal that an education is something provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.

So what are the (largely) free options for you to get an education?

  1. Life itself: C.S. Lewis once stated quipped: experience: the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. I agree that the most obviously overlooked educator is life itself. Perhaps Benjamin Disraeli expressed this more aptly when he said: there is no education like adversity. Mistakes, setbacks, challenges and even ridicule can provide sufficient fuel and learning points for us to become better people which should be one of the goals of education itself.
  2. From the feet of the aged and the mouth of babes: My brother once told me to engage with people who are least ten years younger and ten years older than me. It was invaluable advice; the younger generation tend to be more knowledgeable about new technologies, for instance, while the older generation can help you navigate the labyrinths of life to achieve your goal(s) in record time successfully. You don’t have to make the same mistakes others have. Everybody’s a teacher if you can listen (Doris Roberts).
  3. Volunteering: This creates an opportunity for exposure to everything from event management to relationship management. It also gives you access to wider networks who you can learn from. Find what works for you and immerse yourself in a world of opportunities to upgrade your skills by working with the more knowledgeable. We learn by doing.
  4. MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and podcasts: A number of top ranked universities offer free online courses on the following platforms: EdX, Coursera and FutureLearn. In addition, the University of Oxford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for example, host a number of free, publicly available lectures on their websites. All you need is a smart phone/ computer, internet access and a willing mind. A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a lot of ignorance is just as bad (Alice Miller). Update your knowledge.
  5. Libraries: There are many general and specialized libraries in Nigeria ranging from public and institutional libraries to private repositories where one can access knowledge for a small fee or for free. Do make use of them. Google Books also provides full or limited access to old and new publications online. The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you know, the more places you’ll go (Dr. Seuss).
  6. Events: There are many free cultural, intellectual and artistic events going on all over Nigeria. There is no limitation to what you can attend, from TEDx talks to museum tours and art exhibitions. Some of these events can be found or tracked through platforms like Eventbrite.
  7. Social Media: Twitter, in particular, keeps me abreast of current happenings in my field and in the world. Comments/viewpoints posted by others can give you a more broadened perspective on certain topics. The key thing is to ensure you are following the right people, organisations or institutions. Search for what appeals to you for your own education journey.


In conclusion: We learn more by looking for the answers to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself (Lloyd Alexander). Good luck as you explore the numerous opportunities available!