It keeps getting said: “Kenyans don’t read.” Which Kenyans? I am Kenyan. I read. I love to read. I know a bunch of people who read almost as much as I do. I can only name just a few. Magunga Williams. Rose Odengo. Aamera Jiwaji. Kibali Moreithi. Zosi. Kinyanjui Kombani. Oluoch Madiang’. Clifford Oluoch. Aleya Kassam. Owaahh. I just counted 10. Bet you can count your own 10 as well.
I read like a maniac. I read compulsively. Where people binge eat, or watch tv show marathons, I read.
I read sci-fi, medical thrillers, crime thrillers, modern classics, classics… my friends are Kay Scarpetta, Jane Rizolli, Commander Vimes, Anne of Avonlea, Pip (Philip Pirrip), Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Rincewind, Javier Falcon…
I read serious books too. I read books on publishing practice, creative writing, animal husbandry (hihiii – I’m sorry I’m one of those) business & enterpreneurship, diet and nutrition, yoga and exercise(key word: read)…
But would I read if the choice was between a book and a solid one-a-day meal? Would I read if the choice was between a book and my daughter’s (I’ll get a daughter, you wait and see) clinic fees? Would I read if it was a choice between a book, and the final 100/- to get my son (him, too) into the informal school at the end of my street?
If the issues above were non-issues, would I really read if I had not been dropped smack-dab into a world of readers(read psychotic family members who quote anything from the bible to JD Salinger to make a point) and books and people who valued books more than TV or any other form of entertainment? Would I be a reader if my step-dad had not initiated me into the world of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno so soon after being terrorised by the abbreviated version of Romeo & Juliet? (Now that I am grown up I can see why R & J should not ever be a representation of love & romance.) Would I be a reader if my mother had not spent whatever extra cash she could spare to buy us books?
I suppose the next question is, how has reading helped me? Anyone who knows me also knows I am a loud, stubborn, quite possibly narcissistic (working on it) individual. Reading helps me listen to voices other than my own 7. Reading helps me process new ideas and thoughts – such that I am not closed in on my own way of thinking. Reading helps me find solutions, to people problems and technical problems. Reading helps me deal with the world in a much better way, quite possibly much more patient, and less violent way.
My reading is the reason I have a job that I love. If I wasn’t a reader, I would never have dared pursue the line of work I am in with the amount of unabashed confidence that I possess. You could say to some extent that reading pays my bills.
More than anything, reading has saved my life. I have a theory that if I wasn’t a reader I’d be long dead by now, from heartbreak or from despair. Reading has pointed me to people (fictional or otherwise) who have survived so much worse than I have faced. Reading gives me that bolster of courage that convinces me that I owe the world one more day of productivity even when it is the last thing I want to face.
So: Seeing what reading has done for me, I am joining this chorus of voices that is calling for you, me and that guy in the orange shirt standing next to you (not orange, what is it, tangerine?) to help open up the world of possibilities for a child who needs it. You and I can be part of a movement to raise a generation of avid, adventorous, creative, innovative readers! We can do this by making books available to them and by supporting an awareness of the benefits of reading.
One way YOU can do this is by supporting Start-a-Library’s Read Aloud Campaign. So Let’s Read Aloud on the Day of the African Child!