The World Book and Copyright Day, on April 23, went by largely uncelebrated.
Punjab University and Government College University organised events to mark the day. As many as 13,000 books were collected at a ‘book donation’ camp, which concluded on Sunday, a day ahead of the World Book and Copyright Day. It was organised by Creative Alley, a student-run organisation, in collaboration with Global Changemakers, a British Council project. Tanzila Khan, the organiser, said the aim had been to collect books to donate to under-privileged schools. “Ideas come about through reading,” she said, “It’s about time we started sharing our books.”
Publishers, teachers and book enthusiasts, meanwhile, expressed their concerns over the declining trend of reading.
Salman Aslam, sales and coordination manager at Ferozsons Private Limited, lamented the parents’ failure in inculcating reading habits in children. He blamed a “low and declining literacy rate” coupled with a lack of social awareness for the trend. “People who have a passion for reading are still addicted to books,” he said “but the trend is on the decline.” Aslam said that if schools encouraged students to visit (public?) libraries, children might develop an interest in reading.
“Reading is not only an integral part of learning but also helps in character building,” said Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, the academic editor at the Oxford University Press. Bangash said that OUP offered online access to several books, primarily academic.
Nadeem Siddique, senior librarian at the Lahore University of Management and Sciences, said that though more and more students were shifting to “electronic resources”, print was yet to be replaced. Students usually opted for electronic resources in the absence of print resources or when they wanted reference material “since it is easier to navigate through [electronically]”, Siddique said. Students still use the library, he said, adding that the purchase of printed books had also increased in line with growing demand.
Fizza Suhail, a teacher at City School, said, “technology has changed the concept of learning.” Suhail believed that it would be unfair to “limit” students to conventional books and not using other tools of learning. She said she encouraged her students to explore online resources for research.
Nabiha Meher, director of progressive education at The Knowledge Factory, held teachers accountable for “taking the joy out of book reading”. “Why can’t we make book reading ‘cool’ enough?” asked Meher. She regretted that learning and reading have been turned into a “formula” to get good grades, “Teachers make book reading such a tedious task for students that they eventually get bored.” Meher said she encouraged her students to do “background reading” to develop a better understanding. “There’s a need to instill reading habits at home and school,” says Meher.
Waseem Shahbaz, deputy manager at the Gulberg branch of Paramount Publishing Enterprise, said there were still people who love books. For him events like the Lahore International Book Fair were evidence of the still-alive interest in books. Though he admitted that sales had declined he described it as “a global phenomenon”.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.