By Ganjiki D Wayne
Following my last commentary on the reading culture (or lack of) in PNG, it seems the bookworms have really been let out. Responses are quite uplifting. We heard from people who share the same burden for the reading culture in PNG. People were starting small book club programs at their homes, getting their families in on the action, even reading to their babies in the womb! And they were seeing positive impacts of such programs. A few colleagues of mine were so encouraged that they’ve suggested we do book club at work. So now we’ve designated a lunch time once a fortnight to have book reviews.
I was even encouraged to start an online book club. I didn’t think it would be received well at first, but I did so anyway—on facebook. The response was overwhelming. The facebook page “PNG BookClub” grew to 2800 members (and climbing!) in the space of four days! I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong. There are people out there who are actually reading books like crazy...and they’re quite excited that they have a forum in which they could just talk books! People are conversing as if they’ve known each other for years...all because they share a common love for books and favourite authors!
On that page people have been recommending books and authors; giving snippets of books they’re currently reading or just completed or starting. They’re setting up meetings with each other to exchange books. More stories of family book clubs are shared. People who lost the passion for reading are telling us that they’re now picking up books again—inspired by the collective passion. Aspiring writers (including me) now have hope that we will surely have readers for our books when they’re published. People have expressed frustration too with the fact that the public libraries in the major centres are non-existent and that access to books is almost zero at the moment for rural and semi-urban areas. A story of a boy named Ngaru Nen—who goes to school in the US—distributing books to rural Watut has warmed our hearts. And news of others also attempting such deeds is encouraging. People with an abundance of books are even willing to contribute to a distribution effort—from within and abroad!
There’s even talk going on to materialise the movement into a formal club—aimed at building and sustaining the reading culture in PNG. A blog for book reviews and a website have been created (but not yet complete). People want a place where they can meet and exchange books both physically and in cyberspace. They also want to get involved in distributing books to people (especially children) who need them. Many ideas are put forward but we’re keen to just take it one step at a time. All good things are built slowly.
Bottom line is that people are being encouraged to read. We don’t yet know the full extent of the influence of the PNG BookClub on facebook. All we know is that members of the page are being encouraged to read more, and whoever they interact with (beyond facebook) are also being inspired to read...and a lot of them are! That gives us hope.
Vision2050 expresses a desire to see PNG people become “smarter, wiser”. These qualities are slowly being realised as more and more people pick up books and read. We can’t rely only on our Education system to make people smarter and wiser. Nor do we have to wait for the government to make things happen. It can start with us; wherever we are. We hope that you will pick up book soon—if you haven’t. And that you will encourage those within your sphere of influence to read books. You can prod them along by holding book review meetings—which are both educational and fun. Give books to them and follow-up regularly. Eventually your involvement will become unnecessary as they will soon get hooked on reading.
Most young people in PNG know Dr. Ben Carson’s story. The power of reading is well-illustrated in his story. Yet many still need to unlock their reading passions. There’s no doubt that if we are to become smarter and wiser, we must read. It takes more than just one week a year to highlight the importance of book-reading. We must prod the young people of our young nation to get their heads out of the clouds and into the books. True and long-lasting change starts right there. To change the attitude of people we need to change the mind of people. Books can do that.
Happy Reading PNG!