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They say Africans don’t read? I beg to differ!

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One of the reasons we read is to gain knowledge and Africans are very knowledgeable people.

Africans have been on the receiving end of anything bad. The black race is at the receiving end of spiteful and racial remarks from across the world. Funny enough, even nations that cannot be compared to a single country in Africa also join in these jibes.

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One of the things they say is that Africans don’t read. Is it true? How come Africa has produced most of the World’s best writers/storytellers/novelists/essayists who are even making waves abroad? Some have gone on to become lecturers of English language, History, Creative Writing etc in countries such as the USA and UK.

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How did the African Writers series evolve? Why did the Heinemann Publishers get so interested that they kept publishing our stories? Why are foreign publishers interested in publishing our African stories?

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Isn’t it because the whites also recognise good writings? They know that some of the best story tellers comes from Africa. Isn’t it because the western world is hungry for a good dose of refreshing story rooted in culture and tradition?

Indeed, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.

There is a non-profit organisation that provides mobile platform for books. It is called Worldreader. In a research carried out by The Mail and Guardian of UK, after four years of making digital versions of books accessible to Africans in financially distressed countries and amassing 1.2 million users, Worldreader has learned a whole lot about the reading habits and trends among the African users on their mobile platform.

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Their findings?

Africans read!

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Africans consume quality literature more than any continent of the world. This is because we love storytelling. We love to read romance. Lots of us read ‘The Pacesetters Series’ with complete passion and reckless abandon back in the days. We equally read foreign popular romance series of Mills and Boon.

I can recollect how many times a story book was hidden under my chemistry note while the teacher was in class. I was caught once, the novel was seized and I got reprimanded. But, this didn’t stop my love for books. And just like me, there are lots of young Africans, who are addicted to reading novels, magazines, newspapers, articles etc.

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How did it all start? My father has an uncanny love for buying and reading newspapers. He read two newspapers per day. From the days of Sketch (of blessed memory, lol), Tribune and Punch. I was always fascinated watching him read his newspapers. He also read Tell magazine, Choice, Fame and Encomium.

So I began to read these papers after he finished with them. I was just about seven years old at the time. It made experienced beyond my age. I could talk on any topic.

Then, I started reading Tempo Magazine as well and got hooked to a column written weekly by Chude Jideonwo who was just a year older than me. He wrote an article about clocking 18. I was shocked because I had always thought I was reading from a grown man. Yes, his content was that matured and insightful. Later, I got to discover he became the co-founder of RED Media and I wasn’t surprised. They also organise the Future Awards which has grown to become the number one youth award in Nigeria.

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What about Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, Chinua Achebe and Bessie Head?

Africans are still in the habit of reading!

Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” is one of the best books ever written, translated into more than 50 languages, adapted into a television series and over 12million copies sold. Many African children love this author and his books.

Our childhood was fascinating with Cyprian Ekwensi’s “Toads for Supper” and “Jagua Nana”, Ola Rotimi’s “The God’s are not to blame”, and Camara Laye’s “The African Child” etc.

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Reading empowers one’s thinking and imaginations. You are catapulted into places you never knew existed. You are armed with adequate knowledge to hold a conversation wherever you find yourself. Asides this, reading makes you very intelligent, far better than regular people who don’t bother to read.

So I beg to disagree with whoever brought up that notion that Africans, the ‘black man’, doesn’t read. In fact, they said that the best place to hide something from a black man is in a book.

I beg to differ, because I am an African, and I read!

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Photo Credit: Mg Africa

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