Poor reading culture in Uganda

The culture of reading was imposed upon me as a child, I went to a primary school with an enormous library filled with novels, magazines and text books. The school had a subject called “Summaries” that was compulsory for all students from P.1 to P.6  and required a student to write a one page summary of the novel they had borrowed from the library. Each class borrowed novels twice a week and exercise books were submitted for marking two days after just in time to borrow the next novel. Failure to submit the summary was a serious offence and one could get punished, also, there were certain novels one could not borrow depending on their class, just as you were growing in all other things, the content one was reading was expected to grow as well.

So with this, I was forced to learn to read and write authentic summaries as copying from behind the book for the author’s summary was also punishable. It became a common sight to see most of the kids read their novels during break time, lunch or at the end of class as they waited for their parents. It also became a common practice that we booked to read each other’s novels after either was done or make the switch during the next library visit. What started as a burden became a culture that bonded the kids together, for example; if someone from another class had the novel you wanted to read next, you’d have to approach them to ask for it. We were connected through our interest in the literature.

I later went on to join a high school that had peers with primary schools similar to mine, most of us loved to read but few of us could afford to buy new novels every term so there was a lot of exchanging, booking and narration if you were too far down the list. I guess we had a book club of our own, full of girls and a few guys who weren’t friends per say but interacted enough to switch novels amongst one another.

I could say that my love for reading started way back in primary school with me passionately reading my novel so that I could write a mind blowing summary that would be shown off to the entire class by the teacher. For the other students to know how I viewed the characters from a unique perspective and that my summary wasn’t just a brief of the book. Or I could say that I expanded my taste so that I could have books in common with my high school crush. But no, we were all required to have summaries but we didn’t really have to read the books, I became passionate about reading because I was transported to a different dimension altogether every time I opened a book and as a generally shy and quiet child, the characters became my best friends.

However not many youth in Uganda have this opportunity, libraries in most primary schools only have text books and educational material, which is good but what do the children read to relax? There are barely any recreational novels because they aren’t taken seriously which is sad because I believe this is when the reading culture should be properly cultivated. For many, the first intimate interaction they will have with a novel is in high school where the books are shared during literature class. With this, it can take about three months to finish a book and by the end of S.2, many will drop literature after reading utmost four novels and that will be it for them.

I believe this is the cause of the poor reading culture in this country, quite a number of young people are discouraged from reading books which aren’t academic that they generally don’t want to read anything at all.

For this to change, there needs to be a collective effort from the Ministry, literature needs to be compulsory at the lower levels of education. Parents need to encourage their children to read more recreational books that could spark their creativity and imagination. And young adults like me, need to guide the younger generation by recommending good reads on our social media in order to mentor and empower them to read more. Book stores need to expand their collection from text books and atlases to more recreational books specifically promoting Uganda literature and local writers.

What else to say.

Hugs and Hearts,

Esteri ❤




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