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In December 2010, an ambitious campaign was launched by the President tagged, "Bring Back the Book," in an effort to revitalize and energize the youths to embrace a reading culture. The well articulated alliteration phrase is quite rhythmic and catchy.... "Bring Back the Book!" The massive project was promoted on Facebook and it graced the literary section of national Newspapers. It was headlined as a commendable initiative; the brainchild of an Academic turned Politician. The goal is to promote the building of public libraries, organizing of literary events and book clubs in schools and in public places with the help of local and International authors, parents and elite personalities interested in encouraging children to read. It also aims to encourage the publishing and promotion of books locally. The long term goal is to improve the results of students in national exams as the president was disappointed with the dismal performance in WAEC (West African Examination Council) and NECO (National Examinations Council). The larger picture is that Education is the threshold for accomplishing dreams.
"Bring Back the Book" is indeed a bold statement and an assertive command which has gathered interest in both public and private schools nationwide. Some schools now celebrate "World Book Day" in the month of March, like they do in the UK, all in an effort to raise the awareness of the importance of reading. Book fairs, guest speakers and author interactions are part of the celebrations. Children dress up in their favourite book character while teachers and parents can also join in the fun. Parents in private schools have become actively involved in Library Week, by volunteering to read to the children and in addition bring gifts to reward them. The University of Lagos hosts an annual International book fair in the month of May, which attracts book publishers and book enthusiasts worldwide. The President's initiative is being adopted in schools across the country notably in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, and Bayelsa state. Finally action is being taken to get children away from excessive television and video games, and get them intellectually stimulated with books.
Remarkably, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has awarded the city of Port -Harcourt the 2014 World Book Capital! It was unveiled at the 5th annual Garden City Literary Festival, last year. It is indeed a testament to the ripple effect of Bring Back the Book initiative. The Rainbow book club has been a major facilitator of reading programmes across the country and the brain behind the bid for the 2014 World Book Capital. So come April 2014, Port -Harcourt will not just be the "Garden City"...it would be acknowledged world wide as the "Book City!" It would be an opportunity to showcase Literary Giants in Nigeria and other parts of Africa; both Old and young.
"Bring Back the Book" is a commitment to improving the Literacy level in the nation and is laudable. If maintained against all odds, it sends a resounding message that when youths are empowered with books, they light up their imagination and have the power to dream of a better nation. Inevitably, they can, "Bring Back the Dream!" It is necessary that reading becomes a deliberate action. It is a habit that can be cultivated from a very tender age because, "Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life." The power of the written word cannot be ignored... Readers are Leaders. So the leaders of tomorrow ought to embrace books to be relevant and effective in today's world. Parents and grandparents can help to ignite the passion for books. Bring Back the Book should resound in every home because, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents" (Emilie Buchwald). And "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."(Ray Bradbury)
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