Publishers in Rwanda have launched a year-long campaign to encourage a reading culture with a special focus on children.
Launched a fortnight ago under the theme Gira Igitabo aho uri, which is loosely translated to “A book for everybody, everywhere,” the campaign seeks to promote literacy as an instrument for empowering individuals, communities and societies among other things.
Gasana Mutesi, the founder and CEO of Arise Education, one of the publishing companies pushing the campaign, told Rwanda Today that one of the goals of the campaign is to see institutions, corporates and homes creating a reading corner for children.
“We are happy that the government is endorsing this project and taking the lead,” she said.
She added that the target for corporates was to see all workers read at least one book at the reading corners. Another plan is to have books available in public transport service vehicles under the yet to be launched Igitabo Bus initiative.
The campaign also seeks to work with public figures to co-author stories with children to promote a reading and writing culture and to encourage parents to include books in their household budgets. Ms Mutesi added that most of the books will be written in Kinyarwanda.
According to publishers, the poor reading culture in the country is partly due to an over-reliance on oral tradition, a shortage of Kinyarwanda books and a lack of exposure to reading as children.
“Given the right environment and appropriate reading materials, children love books and enjoy reading, but very few parents inculcate a habit of reading in their children, even among the highly educated and more affluent,” Ms Mutesi added.
Culture and Sport Minister, Julienne Uwacu, said it was time people change the misconception about reading in Africa. State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Isaac Munyakazi said reading and writing should not be left to academicians as everyone has an interesting story to tell and share.
Officials from SNV Rwanda (a Dutch development organisation), which is also a partner and the sponsor of the campaign, said around 45 per cent of children who have finished primary school lack proper reading and writing skills. This leads to a high level of dropouts among primary school students especially in the rural areas.
“Primary school children should read about 40 books including set-books and other related books,” said Phillipe Adopoe a senior officer at SNV Rwanda.