Several years ago, I read a book Life Realities and Strategies by Sheikh Ishaak Nuamah (a popular TV personality who has authored a lot of books and is renowned for Islamic evangelism).
The book contains pages on the stuff that are necessary for a successful life based on lives of great men and practical experience. I never forgot that book even after a decade of reading because I picked something from it that has become my life’s calling. A quest for which I am prepared to go all length for. And that is the cause of liberating men from the shackles and ignominy of ignorance. In the book, he touched on reading. And he stated profoundly, “we must read because we are created to do just that. And man’s advancement is entirely dependent on it. It is a source of spiritual and mental empowerment. The instruction “Read” is a direction towards curiosity and civilization.” I filed that statement and kept it golden.
Exactly ten years after reading that book, I attended a programme organized by the Ghana Association of Writers. They termed it Gawbofest (Ghana book festival). It is an annual event to honor and celebrate writers on the land. The former Secretary-General of Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA), the late Prof. Atukwei Okai delivered a message that underscored the need to imbue in our children the honored life of reading. This he stated will give the child a future. “And what we need to understand in this country is that the future of a child is the future of the country.” Great message. The speech that stood out for me that day was that of the then Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Sun Baohung. She stated stuff that corroborated the things Sheikh Nuamah stated in his book that reading is a call towards civilization. She quoted Confucius as saying “Curiosity is more important than knowledge itself, and interest is even more important than pure curiosity". She extolled the organization of the book festival by saying that it helps arouse people's interests in reading, foster good reading habits and promote the development of Ghana's cultural industry.
Then she reminded the gathering about the Chinese commitment towards reading and scholarship. She intimated that “The ancient Chinese mottoes and stories to encourage reading are countless, such as "There are houses of gold and ladies of beauty in the books", which means reading helps us learn so much about beauty and truth that we can live a better life in our own ways. This she said is frequently referred to motivate students to read more books and study diligently to be men of insight. She hinted that Chinese people believe that "One has to be a good scholar before he becomes a good official, and a good official should never stop learning.” She continued, “Reading as a man's hobby may change his life. A nation advocating reading and attaching great importance to education would lift the nation's comprehensive quality to flourish and grow. Highly regarding reading and education, so to speak, is a strong driving force to the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation. The strategies of "rejuvenating China through science and technology" and "mass entrepreneurship and innovation" currently adopted by Chinese government are also consistent with this paradigm.”
This is the lens through which I want us to view a literary organization formed in one of Ghana’s foremost slums, Ashaiman. A group of young men and women came together on the 7th of July, 2019 to establish a reading club which will serve as a vanguard towards the development of their community. They named it Ashaiman Readers Club. They set up to help tackle the problem of illiteracy in their community. The club looks to imbue the habit of reading among members, through the choosing and reading of a book monthly, after which a discussion on the said book is held by members. Through this discussion, they gain ideas from the movers and shakers of the world, hold conversations with men of history and gain inspiration to lead honored lives and also re-engineer the minds of the youth in that community. The fact can not be denied that one of the issues we are grappling with as a nation is the issue of illiteracy.
Thus, if we have an organization that is helping us in that regard, we must support it to flourish and blossom to the heavens. In the few years of existence, they have held several projects and programs. Prominent among these is the Ashaiman Readers Club Reading Project where they visit basic schools in their community to help them in literacy skills and instill in them the habit of reading. During the lockdown in 2020, the club, in partnership with two other organizations (Mother of All Nations and United Way), they organized a food fair, where 300 households with school going children were given food items. Together with Faata Africa, they executed an anti-Drug campaign in the form of a seminar to help combat the use and abuse of illegal drugs, as Ashaiman is said to be among the communities with high number of drug addicts. In few weeks to come, we will discuss the organization in its entirety. However, I must state that I got really happy when I came across this wonderful organization because of how important I view the honored act of reading. My spirits got alighted, my hackles rose to the heavens. Our elders say when the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk. Indeed, I got so overjoyed over the existence and activities of Ashaiman Readers Club.
Reading gives us wings to fly. The more one reads, the more he learns. The more he learns, the more he enlarges the lens through which he focuses the world. There is something so special and unique about reading that one can’t explain but only readers understand. Ben Carson states that “If we commit ourselves to reading thus increasing our knowledge, only God limits how far we can go in this world.” To say I love reading is an understatement. I want to live a reading life.
Reading indeed brings massive civilization. The Jews are leading the world with “knowledge, industry and commerce because of reading, knowledge acquisition and great application. Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor stated that “I do not recall a Jewish home without a book on the table.”
NB: The Writer is a Youth-Activist and a Student of Knowledge