Let’s think of a national reading month, or a week, or just a day. Oh, that reminds me of a national writing month, or a week, or just a day for writing.
Right, we don’t have anything like that.
Well, maybe, we do.
If we can consider February as the month for reading, then we have a month-long reading festival. However, our February has been a festival for publishing and selling books.
We could call it a book month, a book festival. We Bengalis get immensely enthused about books and literature when it’s February. But we never thought of arranging a month for reading, a week or a month for writing, or even a week for the writers around.
Many would argue, saying that we have more than 500 days to observe a year; what’s the use of adding more days, weeks, and months to our already-congested observation rituals? Would they add any value to our lives?
Trust me, these are the right questions to ask from a commoner’s point of view. Because we observe so many days in our state-orchestrated environment, we sometimes lose track of the days that we observe; but we never see any reflection of those days in our lives.
However, if we introduce a national reading month for everybody, do you think nothing would happen? In a reading month, the parents would take extra care to teach their children how to read various types of texts; this would create a more reading-friendly society and facilitate better bonding between children and parents.
The established writers would read out their works in the media so that others are inspired to write.
If we run a survey among children about reading books, we might get some scary statistics. The objective of a reading month would be to give the young readers the opportunity to be exposed to more books, and hopefully make a habit of reading.
If we take just 15 minutes every day in the month, parents, librarians, and teachers could help promote the importance of reading, writing, and literacy. In a reading month, we could teach our children how to do research. All public libraries could organise reading sessions at their premises.
Bangladesh does produce creative writers, but we have a serious lack in terms of science writing. We produce a great deal of poems, novels, and history texts every year, but there’s very little that we do when it comes to biology, physics, chemistry, and other science subjects. Our publishers can take the lead in encouraging the writers to write more on science subjects.
There are many universities across the world that organise writing weeks for their students, not just for the departments of language and literature, but for all the students.
The objective of a reading month would be to give young readers the opportunity to be exposed to more books, and hopefully make a habit of reading
Imagine our Dhaka University running a writing week for its students! In a specific week, each and every student of the university is writing something. Organising a writing week at a university doesn’t just boost a university’s image, it also imbues the sense of creativity among the students, and raises awareness among them about communication techniques in the form of expressing themselves.
Our universities teach volumes of theories but there’s hardly any course for the students on writing. Our university administrations may think of inviting the publishers to run reading and writing workshops for their students. I’m sure the publishers would be very happy to do that.
Writers in many cities are seen arranging writers’ weeks on their own volition. They gather, they talk, they discuss their own works and they run various types of writing workshops for the potential new writers.
Recently, we did see some initiatives like that; an organiser with the help of British Council brought Hay Festival to Dhaka. Then we saw Dhaka Lit Fest being organised for the last three years.
I’m sure there are many literature festivals in the form of seminars, discussions of books, and book-launching ceremonies being organised across the districts. Sometimes, we do get news of those small-scale initiatives, but we don’t see the news being treated with affection. The organisers don’t also think of sending the news across.
Many of our universities have book clubs, but we never see the media talking about their activities. Organisers don’t think of communicating their programs to the media.
I’ve seen a great many people dream of writing in newspapers. However, they don’t have any idea of how to send in their pieces to the papers; they seem quite scared of sending their write-ups to the newspapers because they don’t know whether the papers would publish their pieces.
The papers could think of working in this area. They could start encouraging their readers to write on a much bigger scale.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer and a columnist.