By Taj Nabi Khan

ISLAMABAD, Aug 4 (APP):It was not long ago when book reading culture was a visible landmark of the educated lot ­— books were considered the source of knowledge for developing verbal abilities, improving concentration, enhancing imagination and reducing stress. Book reading habits also instill the spirit of tolerance among the readers for respecting the opposite views.

However, over the years, in Pakistani society, reading habits were gradually faded away, particularly among the youth. It was more astonishing to go through the results of a recent survey conducted by the Gallup and Gillani Foundation Pakistan according to which, 75% of the Pakistani students are not reading any book — showing sad yet real side of the problem that three out four students in the country never read a book at all except the course-books and that too only for passing the exams.

Reading of productive books is considered building blocks for character, society, and nation at large. It is a window to the world of knowledge: economy, politics, history, literature, culture, and what not. The culture of reading is crucial for independent knowledge acquisition and lifelong learning. It builds the essential attributes for self-advancement and national development. But it seems as if we are living in an age of browsing internet, playing with cell phones and sending text messages — reading a book in a peaceful corner of a library has turned to become an archaic idea.

A number of reasons could be held responsible for declining of book reading culture amongst the youth, but out of all, the top most was found as the internet technology. It has affected reading habits more than anything else among school, college and university students. 

No doubt, technology has helped developed society in different ways, but at the same time, it is robbing away the true charm of life that we were grown up with — sinking and swimming in the world of reading books. The reading habit if not encouraged would be left just a habit talked about and followed by old generation. It is said that for sustaining a strong reading culture among the school-going-kids, misuse of internet technology should be banned.

Talking to APP, Executive Director, Iqbal Institute of Research and Dialogue, International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), Professor Dr. Husnul Amin said, “Recently, a student under my supervision has found in her research thesis that the enrolled-students of Islamabad-based universities are using social media (facebook, twitter, whatsapp, instagram etc.) for about 6-9 hours (74%) on daily basis. He said that productive time is wasted on social media, adding that students often prefer to go for quick-reading, reading-in-bullets and images etc. for avoiding the original text(s). “The vicious academic cycle are needed to be changed for introducing some incentives for reading books — promotion of teachers and marks for students etc”, he added.  

Professor Dr. Kamal Khan, Department of English and Applied Linguistics, Allama Iqbal Open University said, “During early nineties, there were lots of public libraries and books shops in Lahore with low-cost-books when I was student there.” He said that now the trend has changed as reading habits declined due to social and electronic media while no book shop is left in that locality.

Dr. Kamal said that now students either go for spoon, surface, or cursory reading and that too on social media obsessed with the idea of ‘quick-to-share’ the stuff online. He said that collaborative efforts on public-private partnership are needed for libraries and reading related projects for reviving and promoting book reading culture.  

Director Academics, IIUI, Professor Dr. Tahir Khalily said that for promoting reading culture, it was import to motivate students and teachers for study-circles, writing book-reviews, reading-play and analytical-reading. He said that students should be encouraged to utilize their time in reading while travelling in bus or train.   

Saad Ahmad Khan, a college student from Islamabad said, “Books does not seem attracting people anymore as they used to due to modern innovations of electronic gadgets.” He said that nowadays, students prefer to watch than to read due to the fact that watching does not need that much effort in understanding. 
 
Waqar Ahmad Swati, a university student and avid reader who frequently visits library to read books has said, “It is not easy to read from the screen even if it is a short story or a novella but one can make reading from book for hours without having to strain one’s eyes.”