Parents to blame for the diminishing reading culture

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THE one place I both loved and hated to visit on holidays when I was young was my uncle David Mungoshi’s house in Gweru.
I loved it because my cousins and I would often invent our own games, we would make bows and arrows and see who was the best shot, inspired of course by the television series Robin Hood.
We would play all day long without tiring but then there was always that time when my aunt would tell us to stop playing, get back into the house and get out our books to read. I hated it of course, but that was the tradition at the house, whether you liked it or not. I remember reading Rip Van Winkle during my stay there. From then on, I developed a reading habit.
I did not see how far this habit was going to take me then as I was still very young. This was in the 1980s, and yes, like every child I loved to watch television – Voltron was one of my favourite cartoons as well as Dungeons and Dragons but these could not stop me from reading the little fairy tales books – Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and later the Hardy Boys collection, I even had a little dance with Nancy Drew.
It was as though television alone was just not enough and as a man knows the need to eat when hungry, so did I when it came to reading and feeding my imagination.
There are things only a writer can paint for a reader’s imagination and consumption that no film or television director can ever paint or portray through picture and sound.
For example, I remember being unable to put down the Harry Potter books, they were so engaging and enchanting that I could not wait till the next edition was out, but when the films came out, I was so disappointed, I felt the films were too dull and the world created by the director was not as enchanting as the one I had imagined and saw when I read the books.
While I welcome the idea of adapting novels to film in order for us to teach students our own culture and tradition in an entertaining way,(having already done that with Dr Charles Mungoshi’s Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo) we are weakening the power of imagination in children which enables them the ability to create or the power to paint their own worlds from what they would have read.
Apart from obtaining information from reading, it teaches one to be patient as it takes time to finish a book. Which is a contradiction to the lifestyle today of fast and easy money. Just look at the escalating number of people going to n’angas to obtain fast wealth and those going to church for the prophet’s money-making anointing and oils.
This is not us. Nearly every child wants to make a million dollars from one hit song and be the next Kanye West and skip school all together. So our children spend their time on the internet reading about these people and then tweeting or posting about them on facebook instead of using the social platforms to acquire knowledge.
They get exposed to different cultures and beliefs, morals and immoralities as they spend less and less time with their parents. Even the parents prefer to be on whatsapp now instead of helping their children with homework.
“My daughter has had a mobile phone ever since she was in Grade 2,” a very dear friend of mine once said. It was not a bad idea to buy her that phone as it enabled her to check up on her daughter while at work or out of the country, but was that really the reason she got her that phone or was it to show off to her neighbours?
Now the daughter is 16 and she won’t stop asking her mother to go for sleep-overs at her friend’s house. The question is how do you then handle such a situation? Even if we ban child marriages, we got sexually active nine-year olds now – where did they learn about these things?
Personally, I thank my uncle for his strict rules in making sure that we read novels every afternoon during the holidays, it helped culture my reading habits and now my writing too.
Not that I am a saint but I was taught where to draw the line. I say this because had my uncle whipped me for refusing to listen to him when he told me to go and read, my own father would have been alright with it, after all my uncle is also my father, in our culture.
It was his duty to see to it that I did not stray from the path taking me towards my destiny. Many today would have had a problem with that. I remember a time when one of my friends kicked a plastic ball and broke a neighbour’s window while out playing street soccer back in the 1980s, unfortunately my father was coming out of the gate at the same time and saw what happened.
He called all six of us and gave us each a knuckle knock on the head. Today, many would call this abuse and I am sure three of those parents would have reported my father to the police.
The question here is; was this abuse or correction? After all there were fields on the outskirts of our neighborhood where we could play.
None of my friends complained to their parents because they knew they would get an extra beating from them for breaking the window. My father was not just my father alone, he was father to every child on our street and so were their fathers.
In order to save the reading culture in our country, a child’s mind must be taught to obey the parents’ teachings. If we, as parents, are busy hunting for money instead of spending time with our children then all is lost since the children are this country’s future.
We should not agree to everything the West claims are human rights either. Some years back I saw two lodgers fighting because one of the lodgers had shouted at the other’s son for peeing against the house wall and soiling the back of the house.
She did not even bother to ask her son if this was true and why he’d done such a thing, or to even punish him at least.
Instead she got into a fist fight with another elder. Will the small boy ever listen to any elderly person trying to correct him for behaving badly or even his teacher in class? Or will just run to his mother in the sure hope she would defend him, with fists if need be?
If we do not stop crying ‘abuse’ every time a child is corrected we will end up like Britain which has children taking their parents to court for bad parenting.

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