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Leaders are readers

We are celebrating World Book Day on the 23rd of April. As a Zimbabwean I can celebrate because I can read and write. It is commendable that most children in Zimbabwe can read and write. Zimbabwe has done a great job in educating the masses. Few can claim to have been denied education and that is why Zimbabwe tops the literacy tables in Africa. It is quite sad however that reading itself going down as a result of the focus on academia. As Zimbabweans we do not appreciate the value of reading. We read to get a certificate or a degree. We do not simply read for the sake of reading. The pleasure of reading a science fiction, thriller or just a romance book is often not explored. There are many rewards for reading, but we limit our reading just to pass exams. Our reading has to be tied to something academic. That is why many people end up with two degrees a masters and a doctorate.
My mother taught me to love books at an early age. Each Saturday she would take me to the Harare library to exchange my books. I would also get books at the school library, but managed to keep on top of all the reading. My friends and I read all the Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton books in the library. My favorites were the bugs bunny comic books my mother would buy for me. All this reading cultivated a love for reading and writing that I probably would never have developed had I been born a decade later.
I passed by Harare City Library a few weeks ago and it is in a sorry state. The same books I left there two decades ago are still the same books in circulation. I then visited the Mutare library to register my little nephew. The joining fee was prohibitive and compared to the books he would be reading it was a total rip off, so I let this idea go. I went on to the adult section where the situation was exactly the same. The research section had a few shelves of very out of date books. I enquired about joining once again and was told the same exaggerated prices. I would have to fork out US$50 a month to join the library and the icing on the cake is I couldn’t take any of the books home. In essence I was paying a membership fee just to sit on their chair and read their outdated books.
I must say that the British Council has a well stocked and up to date library. Their rates are reasonable, I believe it is US$250 a year and if you join at special times it is possible to get a half off discount. This membership comes with many other benefits, access to British resources and so on. In the Mutare City Library, you cannot even sit for free. It’s actually surprising they let me have a look around.
Maybe someone out there would like to do something about the state of our libraries. Reading needs to be encouraged, not just reading towards a qualification but reading wide to keep the brain active, to socialize oneself and just to enjoy a good book. Let’s keep reading.

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