Uchechukwu Nnaike

A Lagos-based book store, Reading Corner at the weekend organised series of activities aimed at encouraging children to read and to spread the joy of reading, to mark this year’s World Book Day.

The event, which held at Fantasyland, Ikoyi, Lagos featured book readings, storytelling, prizes and giveaways, ‘Ajapa’ performance, among other fun-filled activities.

The children were also encouraged to donate their old books (in good condition) in exchange for a N500 book token, which they could use to either get free book or get money off a purchase; all the proceeds will go to the Bethesda Child Support Agency.

Explaining the essence of the event, the founder of Reading Corner, Dr. Funmi Ogunlesi, said though the actual day is March 3, but the celebrations can be around that period. She said the event sought to encourage and promote reading and to spread the joy of reading.

According to her, the Reading Corner started as an online book store in 2013, but her real passion was to open up a library because she grew up in an environment that libraries were on every corner and if children wanted to read books, it was easy; they didn’t have to spend money to buy books.

Ogunlesi, who called for the establishment of public libraries to promoting reading by making books available to students, said “the way to go is to have a system where if you cannot buy books and for those whose children read like five books a day and are always going for books, it will be nice to have a place where they can read books for a small fee of for free.”

She said reading is very important because it helps one to grow; it improves the vocabulary and enables readers to discover new things. “Your imagination grows and even for children it exposes them; a child who has read a book about Russia may have never been to Russia but if the child talks about Russia you will think he/she has been there because the author has been there and has written a perfect description. That to me is the importance of reading it teaches people about various places it exposes children to various things and places.”

While regretting the declining reading culture, she said it is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. “It is around the world; there is too much competition it is easier to watch television, it is easier for the parent to say switch on the television if they are making noise. Among the generation coming up you can see that they have suffered from the lack of reading and lack of exposure to books from the way they write, you tell people to write a letter, their punctuation is poor, they can’t spell even simple text messages.”

To revive the culture she urged parents to start reading to their children from a tender age and to always read so that the children can emulate them. “Let them see you read whether book, newspapers or magazines. Let the children know you as someone that reads.”

Among the books on display and read to the children are the Ajapa series by Akin Braithwaite, which promote the African culture through folktales about the tortoise (Ajapa) and other animals. Two live tortoises were provided so that the children can better understand the main character in the story.

Speaking with THISDAY, the author of the Ajapa series, Akin Braithwaite, who was at the event said he decided to write African folktales when he realized that his children enjoyed listening to the African stories he told them when he ran out of bed time stories. He said most of the stories are the stories he grew up with so he is re-telling them.

Asked how children have responded to the Ajapa series, he said: “When children come in contact with Ajapa, they love it, it is unique to them.” He said so far there are three series of the stories he recommended for children from six to 10 years old, adding that another series would be out this year.