Getting lost in words

Book clubs are among the ways to keep a reading culture alive in the country.

03 September 2019 | Youth

Ester Kamati



“There is a difference between the tangible world and the world of imagination, which is your personal, private world. Only you get to be there and a book takes you exactly there.”

These are the words used by Madeline Carlman to describe the wonderland of reading.

Helvi Itenge, who is not only the founder of the Namibia Book Fair, but an author as well, is a devoted reader.

She highlighted that simply having libraries at schools and in communities is not enough. Based on research she had conducted, she found that 80% of school libraries are not in use and those that are, are rarely utilised by learners to borrow books.

Besides making reading material available, there are different mechanisms to fuel, encourage and make reading fun, and especially target the youth. The Zone explored some of the options.

Reading starts at home

Carlman, an American fellow studying book clubs in Namibia, shared her family advocated so much for reading that she was exempted from chores during her reading time. This was one of the things that kept her keen on reading, besides the fact that her mom was part of a book club.

According to Helvi, it starts when you are young. She suggests parents should already buy books and read to their children when they are infants. Parents need to read and establish fun activities to do with their children that revolve around reading, she said. The mother of two shared that she constantly buys books for her children.

“Everywhere you go, take a book with you; for example, to the salon,” suggested Itenge.

This also comes in handy during a long road trip. Children often mimic the activities of their parents and therefore a parent that reads is an asset in a child’s life.

Book clubs

These serve as a safe haven and place of belonging, not only for story readers, but for storytellers. This is where a group of avid bookworms gather either once or twice a week to share their understanding and conclusions on a particular book, which they all agreed to read. Book clubs can be formed anywhere, from a school to a social group, and provides a platform for readers to share their excitement about their mutual hobby.

This creates a space where people can compare their various views on books, as well as make recommendations. This not only excites people for their next read, but is a fun way of sharing knowledge and spending time with book lovers.

The Goethe Institute hosted a workshop on 31 August, facilitated by Carlman and Itenge. The workshop was attended by children as young as five and parents who accompanied their young ones. Various topics were covered, which included how to start a book club, as well as how to read the same book when there is only one book available.

Adopting the culture of reading

Itenge explained she had never been keen on reading and it came as a surprise that she ended up as an author.

“I told myself that I will join one of these kiddies’ book clubs, even if I am reading young adults’ books,” she said.

She explained that an adult who has not had a reading background will struggle, but they should join activities such as book clubs to better their skills.

Affiliation with readers

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future,” Itenge said. The people you spend most of your time with are often a reflection of who you are. Their habits rub off on you and you do a lot of activities together. She advised that individuals surround themselves with people who are readers and who will encourage them to take a few hours off to read.

Book fairs

Attending events such as book fairs and book exchanges is fun for youngsters, as they get recommendations on what books to read and often become excited to get their hands on a particular book.

Writing/journaling

“Give a kid a journal and ask them to journal once a night for at least ten minutes and they’ll suddenly have all these ideas,” said Carlman. They start thinking of how to form better sentences and often refer to how other authors’ work. “If you want to be a good writer then you should also be a good reader,” Carlman added.

“That feeling of seeing the satisfaction on the children’s faces,” Itenge said, adding she is proud to provide authors with a platform to showcase their work at the Namibia Book Fair.

She urged parents to support their children when they start reading groups.

“Education and reading starts at home; don’t just send your child to school thinking that the school is supposed to do the job 100%,” she said, adding parents should encourage their children.

Visiting book stores

“A life without books is like a life with no friends,” said Clifford Yates, who runs a bookstore called Uncle Spike’s.

“Just give it a try; sometimes you will have to read a few books before you find something that truly grabs your interest,” he advised.

The best way to do that is by visiting a bookstore and seeing the variety of options available. Eventually you’ll find something that catches your eye and you’ll be hungry for another one, right as you get to the last page.

Advantages of reading:

· You become well-informed.

· You tend to do better in school.

· You develop critical thinking.

· It helps you connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise have connected with.

· You get to bond with people.

Recommended books:

· ‘Americana’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

· ‘Who moved my cheese’ by Spencer Johnson.

· ‘Finding your soul mate’ by Vianna Stibal.

· ‘How to get out of debt, stay out of debt and live prosperously’ by Jerrold Mundis.

· ‘Happy yellow sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

· ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison

· ‘The particular sadness of lemon cake’ by Aimee Bender

· ‘Thula-thula’ by Annelie Botes

· ‘Die reuk van appels’ by Mark Behr

· ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe

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