THE National Book Week is one of those weeks in a year that means more to me. I always get invited to speak in various schools around the city. In any one year I usually get one or two invitations from schools and colleges in the city.
Even though I am speaking at the Kopkop College in Gerehu on the closing day, I am in spirit with the students and teachers of Salvation Army Boroko School, who also invited me to speak at the same time.
The observation of the National Book Week around the country must be encouraged. Books are important tools of knowledge and without books our development as humans are limited to the immediate sensorial environments.
We need books in our lives to widen our knowledge of the world. Reading books helps a person to develop special knowledge and skills to equip that person to face whatever challenges he or she faces.
Reading culture must begin with young people in homes, schools, and in whatever places they work, play, learn, or interact with each other.
Without reading we will not get out of this jungle of the modernity with all its junkies, wares, electronic media technologies, and gadgets that distract us from fully developing our basic human skills.
Reading is a basic human skill that we just cannot afford to ignore.
I must speak of writing as the twin sister of reading. There is no reading without writing. We depend on someone to write something so that we can read. Writing transfers thought from someone to an object where it is visible.
This week we celebrate books and the stories we read in them. Some of these stories once existed as spoken stories in folk societies. Some of these stories existed as myths and legends of a place or people.
The writers are special people who sat down to pen these stories and books for us to read.
Whatever background the writers lived and wrote in may not be important to us now. What is important is that someone has to do the hard work of transferring what existed outside of print into the printed form.
We need to recognise our writers and reward them accordingly.
I may sound folkloristic here, but it is important to point that out. Today we think of books in terms of subjects we study in schools. I talk of books beyond those subjects to include any published materials that are available in the world for anyone to read. I am making reference to general trade books to personal development, self-help books to reference books that we need to consult for factual information and research based evidence.
We all need information to improve our lives. We all need information that is critical to our understanding of the world around us.
Before the arrival of online libraries and information explosion we depended on printed books.
Come to think of it, traditional paper printed books are here to stay. Many of our schools still need printed books because they do not have electricity or technology to access online information.
The challenge is to disallow the gap between those who have it and those who don’t. We must not allow the few with access to media technologies to advance and those without to regress into oblivion.
Our nation faces the impossible task of bridging the gap between literacy and illiteracy. We need to stand back and ask whether we have missed something or have been blindly led into the wayside in our development as a society.
I have a feeling that we stand at a threshold of losing a whole generation of people into the world of media technologies.
Why are they lost?
To me losing a generation that does not read what its own writers have written is more worrying. I often ask university students whether they have read books, poetry, plays, or essays written by Papua New Guineans. Not to my surprise many of them do not even know one Papua New Guinean writer.
Let us develop the reading and writing culture in our nation.