Monday, March 20, 2017


Wednesday was the fifth celebration of Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) day. Commemorated on the third Wednesday of March, the day was launched in Uganda in 2013, a collaboration between the education ministry and the US Peace Corps as a way to promote reading culture and a love for learning.

At 11 am on the day people were encouraged to put down whatever they were doing to read for 20 minutes.

"One organiser was almost apologetic in asking people to read for 20 minutes, making the concession that if people couldn’t handle 20 minutes they should at least do five minutes!...

Some regular readers did not even try because if they sunk their teeth into a good read, 20 minutes just wouldn’t do and they may be tempted to extend their reading at the cost of their regular jobs.

There are numerous benefits to reading – it improves concentration, creativity, vocabulary, memory and analytical skills among many others.

Seven in every ten Ugandans above the age of ten is literate. For a third world country like our own literacy is not enough. We need more and more people reading, and not only road signs and office reports.

In his book, “Hive Mind: How your nation’s IQ matters somuch more” author Jones Garret, makes the point that one would rather be of average intelligence in a high intelligence environment or country than be of high intelligence in a country with a generally low intelligence. He used the standard IQ test to measure intelligence.

"High average intelligence nations not only create a bigger pie for everybody but by extension carry everyone along, the opposite – high intelligence in a low intelligence environment, does not help the sole genius or the dull masses....

He showed that above intelligence nations have, “the cognitive skills, the human capital, to take on the complexity of a modern economy.”

If you drill down further on an individual level, you are richer or poorer than the next man because you know something or you don’t know something they know. This knowledge can come from experience or much quicker through study – formally or informally. This knowledge is the value that the market pays for.

The Jews known for their financial savvy, it is said their houses are not complete without a library, oftentimes built over generations. Isn’t it the great author who said, “There is nothing new under the sun”?

Studies suggest that people read because they see their parents, significant others or their peers reading.

Unfortunately anecdotal evidence suggests that we are reading less and less and the youth are not taking up reading, beyond their school notes.

But can they be blamed? Their parents and significant others are rarely seen with a book in hand and they have no libraries in their homes, not even for show.

We are distracted by our phones, 24-hour television and the proliferation of entertainment spots around us. The electronic media are not unlike fast food -- they require little if any powers of concentration, abbreviate storylines, employ gratuitous violence and sex to keep the consumer’s attention. Creating a false impression about everything from the process of success to the meaning of relationships.

"We are neither building our individual knowledge base nor that of the country and if author Jones Garret is to be believed, is it any wonder that we continue to be a poor nation decades after independence?...

Before anything happens there has to be a thought, a desire, an intention. From the intangible comes the tangible. From the mental, spiritual comes the physical.

It follows doesn’t it then, that the quality of an outcome depends on the quality of the input? Garbage in, garbage out.

Clearly we are putting a ceiling on our potential by failing to feed our minds through reading. And this need not be non-fiction reading as fiction reading does a lot to stimulate creativity, analysis and comprehension, vital skills in a fast changing world.

If you have read this up to this point I am preaching to the converted. To help the uninitiated it would help to start walking around with a book --- even if it is for show!

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