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Let’s Cultivate The Habit Of Reading

Wed, 3 Nov 2010 Source: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle School, Toronto

“Reading makes a full Man, Meditation a profound Man, Discourse a clear Man”-BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Poor Richard’s Almanac

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines habits as “routines of behavior that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously, without one being conscious about them”. Furthermore, Wood W, Neal DT (2007) explains that, “habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes habitual. As behaviors are repeated in a consistent context, there is an incremental increase in the link between the context and the action. This increases the automaticity of the behavior in that context” (“A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface." Psychological Review, 114: 843–863).

We form habits which are influenced by many factors. These include our culture, environment, religion, upbringing, status (economic, education, social) in society to mention a few. Some of the habits we form are good, others are bad or unproductive! For example, the ‘taken for granted’ Ghanaian habit of hospitality is good on ‘all Ghanaians’. However, the Ghanaian habit of ‘extravagant expenditure’ (money and time) on funerals is unproductive! Also, the habit of PHD (Pull Him Down) as practiced in Ghana politics is bad. In the same vein is the habit of ‘gossiping on the phone’, which has become the lot of many a Ghanaian woman abroad.

The Habit of Reading:

Did you know that READING can keep your mind active and engaged well into old age? Reading is considered one of the best habits that one can inculcate in him. It leads one to knowledge!

The old Good Book says that ‘for lack of knowledge my people perish’. Yes, knowledge is power. Though knowledge comes to us in many forms, it best comes in the pages of a book. However, we won’t know until we read what is written in the pages. Therefore reading is the key to knowledge. It is said that the one who reads is a leader!

As a parent and a teacher by profession I can’t overemphasize the importance of reading to the teaching and learning process. Teachers always encourage their students to read. And students who read a lot excel in the academics. It is good to catch them young with reading! My experience as teacher both in Ghana and in Canada has shown me that most Ghanaian children either don’t like reading or not encouraged to read. The root of this problem is that most Ghanaians (adults) have not cultivated the good habit of reading. Many Ghanaians read only when they are going to write tests which require reading or when they go to church; even at church many listen to the good readers!

My observations in the classroom since 1973 have revealed that the best readers were and still are students who saw/see their parents reading. I therefore encourage all and sundry (especially educated Ghanaians) to cultivate the habit of reading.

Some Benefits of Reading:

There are numerous benefits to be derived from reading. Reading a good book can help you forget some of the problems in your life.

One may question: why bother reading while in our present age there is television to give us all the news, and the movies and videos to entertain us? Well, according to author LeAnn R. Ralph, “Developing good reading skills does not only mean that you can read a novel or a nonfiction book or a magazine or newspaper, it also means being able to read -- and understand-- a credit card contract or an insurance policy. Or the directions for putting together that new shelving unit you just bought. Or the instructions for how to install a new printer to use with your computer. Or the qualifications you need to apply for a job or to take out a loan to buy a house. Or that article you found on the Internet advising consumers about the best, most economical car to buy.”

Other benefits from reading include increasing one’s knowledge based on cultures around the world, which promotes better understanding and acceptance of other peoples. Reading also improves your vocabulary and use of words, and drastically improves concentration and focus. It is said that, the habit of reading ‘brings in lot of discipline and makes us consistent with the habit. We develop habit of learning that brings in scheduling and good management of time’.

Moreover, consistent reading improves the thinking process and makes one more creative.

The Clarion Call:

Let’s shun the bad habits of gossiping, spending countless hours watching movies and the like. According to author Bill Borcherdt, the best time to correct a bad habit is immediately, before it becomes established.

May I use this forum to appeal to all Ghanaian parents to encourage their children to read for, ‘reading makes a person knowledgeable’. Let’s make our children more knowledgeable by reading to them if possible and get them to read to us frequently. There are a lot of good books out there for reading. I end my focus by quoting parts of a poem written by a Grade 12 student, Mohammed Hassan of Toronto, and published in the Urban Voices by the Toronto District School Board in 2004:

“ ‘I Will Read It Again’, I just opened it and only read the first page and already it speaks to me. It speaks so loud. It uses words that are so sweet and beautifully seductive. It speaks of ideas that make me think…..”

If you can READ this, thank a teacher or the one who taught you how to READ. Thanks for READING this article!

Columnist: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley