Only nine per cent of parents read a story to a child, according to data by Save the Children, and three per cent of the children have at least read a Kinyarwanda storybook.
And, while the government and some development partners have been implementing initiatives aimed at promoting reading in the country, 75 per cent of the parents point to the scarcity of children storybooks as one of the major challenges.
Perpétue Uwera, the Chief Executive of Perdua Publishers-a Kigali based publishing house says that publishers should consider reducing the cost of books if they are to be widely accessible to children.
“Most kids in rural areas do not have access to e-books, yes they have books but they are stuck in their school libraries,” she told The New Times.
Uwera suggests that mobile libraries could be the answer to this problem.
To her, books can be delivered children in their homes, read and then return them.
She’s well aware that with the wretched coronavirus, implementing her proposal could be a daunting challenge, and suggests that the books can be disinfected before they are distributed to other children.
“This is a plan we are working on with other key partners and we hope it will improve the reading culture among children,” she said.
In addition to this, Uwera suggests that publishing houses start availing free books online, leverage on community radio, which is easy to access, in order to deliver audiobooks to children.
According to Betty Mukashema, a teacher at Mother Mary Complex, the first effort should come from parents by reading together with their children.
Parents, she said, should be as involved in nurturing the culture of reading among their children.
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“As a teacher when school start, I notice a decline due to the fact that children did not read during holidays, not only schoolwork but also storybooks, this is something that can be avoided through parent involvement,” says Mukashema, who is also a parent.
While she is aware that access to physical books from libraries during the Covid-19 remains a challenge, she says this shouldn’t be an excuse to not facilitate children to read.
“Let’s use the internet to access more books, and try to engage children because implementing this culture at an early age will help them in the future,” she added.
Author, Imanirafasha Félicien, attributes the deterioration of reading culture in children to the proliferation of social media platforms where children spend most of their time texting each other, posting their photos and watching videos.
“Through supervised screen time, children can focus more on reading, they should be encouraged to invest more time in reading as they spend on social media, but also be willing to provide books for them, if every household allocated some money to buy books for children like they buy any other materials in the house, they should keep in mind to buy books that children are interested in and make it a habit and invest in books as a part of the children education, then the reading culture can improve starting from family level.” he said.