If young people today do not read who am I writing for?

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I READ first and foremost because that exercise alone gives me great pleasure.

I write because I happen to be weird enough to believe I can fractionally add to the excitement of reading.

It is a great delight for me to stumble across a new word neatly slotted into the midst of a mind-blowing sentence, just like it is a wonderful experience for me to discover a different, exciting employment of a common word.

I read because I love to consume all there is from the written word - whether through traditional or non-traditional work, real or surreal and be it information, education or entertainment. I find all of this in books, newspapers, magazines, posters, even notices.

All these avenues not only help quench my insatiable desire to grab something and read, but I find that I also become a better novelist, just from experiencing the written work of others.

But, I would not hoodwink myself into believing that ours is a reading generation. It is far from it. Even I, the self-proclaimed reader, do not read half as much as I need to.

Go to Exclusive Books on a month end - okay, scratch that - go to Exclusive Books during December when almost everybody has got their bonuses and ask them how many customers bought books. Then, quickly take a walk to a nearby liquor store and see if you will even get a moment's attention from the busy salespeople there to find out how many crates of beer walked out that day.

Why is this? Why are people not as interested in books and reading as they are in other aspects of life?

Well, maybe we should ask writers if they write material adequately exciting to get everybody crazy about reading?

If the answer is affirmative, then perhaps publishers must tell us why these exciting books we write all the time have not been commercially exploited enough so as to increase readership (and revenue for starving writers!).

If the answer is negative, then we must wonder why we are still in the business of writing if our work is not at a point where everybody who must read, actually reads. I believe as a novelist I must take some degree of responsibility - even feel a bit ashamed - when it is said that many high school learners can't read or write properly.

I feel responsible simply because I am a practising member of the literary world which seemingly has little to no impact whatsoever on the youth of today; and I feel ashamed because, let's face it, if the youth does not read, who will I be writing for?

And therefore the question persists, dear writer, and it is a simple one: why do we feel we still need to write, if we can't win the hearts and minds of young people and get them reading?

Maruping Phepheng is a novelist and MA Creative Writing student with Rhodes University. His first novel What Happens In Hankaroo... came out last year, and his second Of Anger and Revenge will be out soon.

Being told stories and being read to helps children develop the rich storehouse of language, grammar and vocabulary they need to bring to texts when learning to read and write.

Get your FREE Nal'ibali reading-for-enjoyment supplement tomorrow in The Daily Dispatch or visit www.nalibali.org and mobisite, www.nalibali.mobi for more storytelling tips and children's stories in a range of SA languages.

By: Maruping Phepheng

Article Source: Daily Dispatch

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