Challenges Teens face with reading culture

By Charles Umeh

The challenges of reading and writing in Africa is as old as it goes hence the normal adage if  you want to hide anything from a black man hide it in a book… and when you probe further on the reasons  the result is simple, he wouldn’t read it. That was the drive for us with regards improving the reading culture we had to come up with making reading sensational again.

Three years ago we came up with an annual reading competition in Nigeria where we reward young people for reading an African book. We at craigmind came up with a book competition where we got young people read an African book and paid them for reading it. Sounded simple and unrealistic when we started but that was our approach and that was what changed our game.

My experience in three years running this project gives me a different approach as to what challenges young people face while reading hence our approach.

Firstly these are testing times for teens with the advent of the social era where one  has a legion of activities begging for ones attention  the short span memory rate  the celebration of pop the culture and the relegation of the Nerd except the nerd  stubbornly stands out.

People  complain teens don’t read but  we forget that  we barely celebrate Intelligentsia.  Have you ever wondered  why the most  beautiful girl  on campus go home after a beauty contest  is rewarded with a car  and over 500,000 dollars as a reward for simply  looking beautiful while the best graduating student only gets a mention on graduation day a clap  and is forgotten  faster than the newest trend on twitter while  he lives in oblivion in the job market . So we  played around the carrot and Stick approach where we  promised paying  the best teens who read our books and answered our questions some money  for reading an African book and equipping their school library with lots of books like we envisaged  they bought into it and that was it.

In the beginning we weren’t taking seriously but when we kept to our promise  for three years by paying as much  300,000 naira for reading a book and  equipping their school library with  books hereby getting the attention of their school authorities.

With time we got A-list Sponsors like Toyota Elizade motors  partner and other key stakeholders to make it a success.  Going forward in the year we would be working with  more partners with similar interest to have  book reading in cluster schools   and communities  to have these competition and scale up our cash prize  people  ask us why we  don’t give  scholarships rather than cash my response is simple our partners are working on the scholarships but from experience we  know the effect of what our cash bait has done and we aren’t scared of raising the bar  we simply  value more the kid who wows as and the monetary involvement is just too paltry  to quantify their effort  for instance for each competition we have we had more people participate all in the name to win our cash  so the more  we have people participate the more we increase the number of  readers and we are not scared of keeping to our rewards.We believe we  can either keep complaining about young people not reading or we be a solution so we choose to be the latter and that is how we wish to be remembered.

So our campaign  is simple  If you want to hide anything from an African child and put it in a book,you have yourself to blame  because he would read it. Our 2016 plan is simple raise the stakes with regards our cash prize and equip more schools with library books and inspire more teens to read.
We have worked with Award winning authors like Ayotunde olofintuade,  Chinyere obi Obasi and Okechukwu Ofilli.
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