Perhaps it was the lack of Internet access (which wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t user friendly at the time), the unavailability of digital satellite television in most homes or the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœweekend and public holiday onlyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ video viewing schedule set by most parents, including my own, but I grew up with my nose in books.
From the moment I learnt to read, I was drawn to the elaborate worlds created by words intricately woven together in an authorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mind and printed in black ink. It started off with the usual fairytales, then Peter and Jane, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, The Chronicles of Narnia and a lot more.
While other kids my age were more than happy to buy toys and candy, I remember saving up the little spending money I had to purchase books at Malawi Book Service when I was only five years old. For my sixth birthday, my parents got me the classic fairytale The Princess And The Frog. I was overjoyed. By the time I was nine years old or thereabouts, I had moved on to deeper, more interesting stuff.
The contents of my fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book shelves were like a treasure trove to me and I spent many holidays curled up on the floor, reading through Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Jack Mapanje, Tiyambe Zeleza and a lot more distinguished authors.
My mother encouraged this love of literature by buying me a book at the end of each month. Somewhere along the way, I encountered the works of this weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cover, Walije Gondwe, through the Pacesetter Series.
At the time, a lot of females in my age group had read WalijeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s books and were proud to have a published female Malawian author. Today, the story is extremely different. Books have been relegated to theÃ‚Â bottom of dark boxes and reading is no longer celebrated.
Most of the younger generation would rather watch television or surf the Internet than read a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœboring old book.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ The little reading culture Malawi once had has fizzled out.
Is it because of the varied entertainment choices available to us? Or, is it the lack of published Malawian authors who write of things that fellow Malawians can identify with? Are schools and parents doing enough to inculcate a reading culture in the youth?
There is a wealth of knowledge hidden beneath the covers of books; fiction and nonfiction, self-help, motivational and all others. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not deny ourselves the opportunity to claim that knowledge for ourselves!