Raising Teenage Readers as Leaders

Adolescents who choose to pick up a book for pleasure are more likely to succeed in life research has proved. But getting them to do so isn’t easy, writes Adedayo Adejobi

Every child is born with the impulse to make sense out of language and find meaning in the world around them. In a way, they are already reading. Preparing the child for what comes later, such as decoding letters and words on a printed page, is largely a matter of fostering that innate ability. In a bid to foster and encourage students to read ahead of a promising future, the Read, Educate and Developers (READERS) Club registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria, was officially launched in Lagos State at the auditorium of St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka recently, at an event marking the 21st anniversary of the World Book Day.

Sometimes, there’s one key book that captures a child’s imagination and opens him or her up to the exciting world of fiction. Other times, a teacher who assigns great books in class sparks a hunger for more big ideas and fine writing. In some cases, parents influence kids’ appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modelling reader behaviour always having a book to read, taking books on vacation, reading before bedtime, making regular trips to the library and bookstore, helps shape the mind and leader in the child.

Reading for pleasure at a tender age is a strong factor in determining future social mobility. Indeed, it has been revealed as the most important indicator of the future success of the child. That was the startling finding of research carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on education and reading, and their role in promoting social mobility. It highlights why getting teenagers to read for pleasure is more than a sepia-tinted ambition for frustrated parents. It is a fundamental social issue.

The research findings need unpicking. A distinction is being drawn between different motivations for reading – whether it is done for its own sake, or whether it is the result of being cajoled by carrots and sticks. Research suggests those who read for pleasure demonstrate an intrinsic desire to engage with stories, texts and learning. Reading for pleasure therefore reveals a predisposition not just to literature, but to the sort of lifelong learning that explains increased social mobility.

In the words of Babajide Fagade, ‘‘There is a simple conclusion to draw from all this. We must encourage our children to read for pleasure. But that is easy to say and hard to achieve, particularly in the culture in which many young people grow up today in Nigeria. They have plenty of other leisure activities to choose from.’’

Speaking on the unique essence of the timing, the organisers deliberately choose World Book Day in an effort to create an extensive awareness that reading does not have to be boring; it can be fun. This they believe is the only way to spark interest for books in this new world of video games and entertainment on-the-go, which in turn affects most of our youth and many students in other schools as well.

The official launch and re-launch in St. Finbarr’s College was organised by the members of the board of trustees, who founded the Readers Club in 1986 whilst they were students of St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos and grew its membership to other schools. The members of board of trustee present at the launch/re-launch were Mr. Dare Tanimomo, Mr. Babajide Fagade, Mr. Anietor Obemeata, Mr. Emmanuel Frey, Mr. Kanbi Owolabi and Chief Oluwafela Ajayi.

“In view of the dwindling reading culture amongst teenagers today, we, the founding members of the club, got back together and decided to re-launch the club in order to revive the reading culture amongst the youths and to impact the coming generation, as we believe that Readers Are Leaders!” Chief Oluwafela Ajayi, Chairman, Board of Trustee disclosed.

In the spirit of re-launch for the club, so many schools were invited to participate but only the representative of St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka and the Methodist Girls High School were present at the event which created an enabling environment for reading, interaction and connection between the non-governmental organisation and the notable schools present.

The event featured Career Talk, Reading and Quiz Competition between Methodist Girls High School and St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos. The Methodist Girls High School was represented by Omoniyi Temiloluwa and Ojo Glory under the supervision of Mrs. Ukato Obazele I.C, and St. Finbarr’s College by Mbata Daniel and Abraham Victor under the supervision of Mrs. Ezetendu Genevive.

The quiz based on the Nigerian national schools accepted literature book called Othello was won by the Methodist Girls High School and a cheque of N20, 000 as the cash prize was given to them as the winner and N10, 000 to St. Finbarr’s College by Eventrade International Limited owned by one of the members of the club’s board of trustee.
The aims and objective of the Readers Club are: To promote a reading culture amongst Nigerians, Establish Readers Clubs in schools and other institutions, Organise courses and events, Work with other groups and exchange of information and To revive a reading culture by taking over moribund reading facilities across the country.

The reading for pleasure habit, one firmly believe, can only be built by giving youngsters the sort of books that interest them. So school libraries, for instance, should not only stock books that support the curriculum, but also books that match pupils’ own interests, sparking their enthusiasm for reading and books.

As well as chiming with their interests, books that hook young people into reading need to resonate with who they are. The teenage novels of the past four decades are an extraordinary development in literature, and explore the teenage identity.

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