The World Book Day, also known as, the World Book and Copyright Day, is an important day celebrated every year by member states of the United Nations (UN). Among other reasons, the event is organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the 23rd of April, every year, to promote reading, publishing and copyright. It is however obvious that this year, member states will not be able to organise this event in the manner that it used to be done in the past years. This is as a result of efforts being made by member states to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obviously, the whole world is living in unusual times. The Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC), an Agency under the Ministry of Education, usually organizes workshops and other programmes on this day for players in the book industry. This year, the event cannot come off for apparent reasons. Though the event of the World Book and Copyright Day may not be celebrated on a large scale as used to be done in the past, throughout the whole world, the ideals of the day remain significant and relevant.
One of the reasons for the celebration of the day resonates with our present circumstances more than ever. The object in question is the promotion of reading among member states. The subject of inculcating a lifelong habit of reading in a society has varied and long-term effects, some of which are for the purposes of accessing information and for entertainment. These two habits are of utmost importance to every individual and society at this particular moment.
Understandably, the unavoidable restrictions of movement and the exercise of social distancing have caused many people, societies and families to live in seclusion. This is so, because when people move, the disease spreads. Thus, to control the spread of the disease we are all required to reduce movements, and if possible, avoid movements completely.
This measure comes with its own costs. One of the costs is the availability of excess time for every individual – children, pupils, students, parents and adults in general. The excess time comes because school children and students are not in school, some workers or the adult population are at home because of fluctuating work schedules. Thus, school children, students and some workers have access to irredeemable time that they can all make the best use of.
Again, the excess time and space come with their concomitant boredom and stress. As man is described as a social being, it is natural that man will seek to interact with his or her environment. Any prohibition in this regard has the potential to create boredom and its attendant stress and discomfort. The good news is that, at the time that we are all asked to exercise social distancing, that is, distancing ourselves from one another, we have a friend who can keep us company. The friend is our book – cultivating a lifelong reading habit at this time.
On the occasion of the World Book and Copyright Day, the GBDC seeks to bring the attention of parents, school children, students and everybody that, we all have reading books as our safest companions at this particular time. Life is not full of boredom when we stick to reading books. In effect, the world is full of abundant life when we read for pleasure, even as we practice social distancing.
Thus, instead of children playing all the time, parents can ensure that their wards get access to reading books and also read as many of them as possible. The benefits of children engaging in active reading are enormous. For instance, a child who is consumed by reading his or her books will automatically get occupied and thus avoid the temptation of going out to play with friends at this crucial time. Again, reading books serve as a source of entertainment for children, as the books that they read are based on diverse subjects, some of which are for the purposes of entertainment and adventure.
For the adult population, especially for those who are at home presently, engaging in active reading is of significant importance. Reading for pleasure has the potential to take boredom and stress away. Thus, at a time when COVID-19 is creating a lot of anxiety everywhere, we can bring our stress level down by engaging in active reading. When we engage in reading for pleasure, our minds travel to different places other than focusing on the present situations that are creating discomfort for us.
For parents who are at home with their wards, this is the time the children who do not like reading can be helped to cultivate the habit of reading. Parents ought to set personal examples by reading, as children learn from their parents. Parents can engage in family reading at home, even as they observe the social distancing protocol. A whole family can read together to undo boredom and also entertain themselves. This is the best opportunity to help children to access information and also read for recreation.
On this World Book and Copyright Day, and at a time that is described as not normal, the Ghana Book Development Council encourages everyone to observe all the social distancing protocols and also ensure that we all keep safe. It is our hope that we will all continue to read for pleasure and make the book our friend, especially at this time.
By: Daniel Ofosu-Asamoah
Literacy Promotion Manager
Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC)