SU Wellness: Meet Your Next Favourite Book
Reading transcends class, race, age, and gender. It’s a free magic carpet ride to anywhere on Earth (or beyond), at any point in time.
“The more you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” This is a famous quote by Dr Seuss. Its accuracy is veracious.
The importance of reading is completely undeniable and cannot be stressed enough. Charles W. Elio once said that ‘Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.’
If you’re not the biggest fan of books, that’s ok! You’re not alone! But before you shut out books and reading all together, take the time to learn more about the importance of reading and all the incredible benefits that come with it. At least start by trying to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, and you may even surprise yourself with a newfound passion. You’ll be amazed to see the places reading can take you. As prolific poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky – How to Develop Your Taste in Reading, once put it, “You stand to lose nothing; what you may gain are new associative chains.”
A family that reads together
At the advent of the COVID-19 and in the unique year of lockdowns, the People and Culture office had the noble idea to look into the wellness of the Strathmore family through various ways. We had the pleasure of participating in multi-themed webinars – the birth place of such initiatives as the Strathmore University Fitness Club and of course, the Strathmore University Staff Book Club. For this particular piece, let’s give the latter some limelight.
During one of these informative webinar series, ‘Building families that read together’ held on 24th June, 2020, a total of 92 staff members expressed an interest in nurturing a reading culture. Gabriel Dinda, a Teaching Fellow at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, took up the challenge and helped found and launch the SU Staff Book Club. Guided by their different Club Stars (Club leaders), members selected the book(s) to start from and set targets, framework of support and strategy of execution.
Fast forward to the end of October 2021, thanks to a growing engagement, the embers of SU Staff Book Club have since grown into a bonfire. About a week ago, another instalment of the webinar series titled – Meet your next favourite book, attracted great Strathmore personalities such as Fr. Paul Mimbi, Mrs. Evelyne Mutura, and Gabriel Dinda, all of whom spoke widely on the perks of reading books, both at an individual and at a family level.
Developing a taste for good books
“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not,” Kurt Vonnegut famously proclaimed. But how is one to develop that discerning taste, especially in determining what is worth reading and what is not?
One of the chief benefits of cultivating such taste, is the confidence of knowing which books are not worth reading, which in turn makes the choice of the worthy all the more meaningful. Developing good taste can’t be done by reading whatever is out there. Just as a master chef or foodie wouldn’t learn what is a quality dish by dining every day at one restaurant.
According to Fr. Mimbi, one must expose themselves to great literary text, from which they in turn develop a literary appreciation and broadened outlook that helps them distinguish good literature from the others. He went on to add that besides perfecting actual literacy skills, reading also helps to show the development of human thought, and to place texts in their cultural, social, and historical context.
However, with that said, texts must be compatible with the basic human and ethical values, and be wide enough in scope to encourage discussion and help arrive at truth, as the result of personal reflection and careful study of the texts. In the pursuit of a good read, we must be diligent to ensure we are feasting our eyes on useful books and not wasting time reading things which are frivolous or insipid, or those that could cause harm to our souls. The next time you pick that book you’ve been dying to read, Fr. Paul recommends you first run it through free online tools such as Delibris. Be sure to receive indelible context.
The ‘great books adventure’ for young ones
In your daily routine, how often do you interact with kids? Could be kicking that ball in the estate parking lot when it rolls your way, or giggling beneath your mask from a hilarious conversation you’ve overheard from their play sessions. You’ve probably resonated with a fictional character they idolize, say Robin Hood?
If you are a parent, you’re probably struggling with getting them off the Baby Shark and Cocomelon rhymes and video games on TV. But if you engage them at a literature level, you know that talking to many children reveals that they want to both enjoy and feel the purpose behind what they are learning.
While speaking at the webinar, Mrs. Evelyn Mutura – Manager, Program for Family Development (PFD), stated that creating a ‘choosing’ culture around books allows children to control and exercise their rights as readers and learners. This can be hugely empowering, and once children are making good choices around their reading, this can expand to other areas too. This ‘choosing’ has to be wary of context and children ages as excitement and impact varies almost sharply across such.
Picking a leaf from the PFD Jani 2022 – a PFD, Mrs. Mutura says that reading for kids ought to be a ‘great adventure’ that complements their character formation. Educators should not shy away from teaching children to read unabridged classics, but instead, should endeavour to making this so attractive, the learners find it a beautiful journey. Follow a gentle order of difficulty and even read aloud classic fairy tales together with them. One can even make it a habit to reread old texts as they have a new and refined understanding each time. You just never know how much impact this has on them.
Did you know?
The latest SU Staff Book Club webinar was indeed a beautiful and timeless meditation on the value — the purpose, the challenge, the transcendent joy — of the written word. Participants revelled in classic epic poems such as The Odyssey, and appreciated great writers such as Margaret Ogola, Ngugi Wa Thio’ngo, and Okot p’Bitek through some of their famous one liners and monologues. Feeling left out? You too can be part of this reading frenzy. Just write to Gabriel Dinda: email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know that Tolstoy, in his book: The Coffee-House of Surat, describes a coffee plantation in five pages of font 10? Now go feed that curiosity.
This article was written by Francis Kabutu.
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