By Pamela Moeng
National Book Week will run from 05 to 10 September. According to the Sunday Independent, we can thank the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) and the Department of Arts and Culture for the joint initiative.
Yesterday's article claims that only 14% of the population read books and only 5% read to their children. For me that statistic is like saying only 14% of the population breathe. As a five-year-old child, I loved when my mother read my Little Golden Books to me and I couldn't wait to get big enough to decipher those magical black marks on paper to discover the stories beneath them. When I finally did learn to read - see Dick and Jane run, run, Dick and Jane, run - I read everything I could get my hands on, including cereal boxes, toothpaste tubes and the books and children's magazines my parents provided.
As a mother, I have read to all my children and, just like my parents before me, I made sure our home was full of books. I continue to be a voracious reader and if I have a book I don't mind the wait in doctors' rooms or any queue. This year's theme of SA Book Week is "The Book That Changed My Life". How could I possibly choose one out of so many "old friends" - from Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and the Bobbsey Twins to Wuthering Heights, the Red Badge of Courage, As I Lay Dying, the Colour Purple, the Old Man and the Sea and so many others?
Government has appointed Simphiwe Dana and Azania Ndoro as ambassadors for the week and activities will happen around the country with no entry free. Did I become a writer because I loved reading or did I love reading because I was born a writer is a question with no answer.
One thing I know for sure, reading was an escape from my narrow world and a highway to a wider world. Books helped me develop mentally, emotionally and spiritually and I see them as the key to a treasure trove of precious gems. Some say the book as we've known it - between two covers in traditional print form that you hold and turn pages - is dead or dying, I say books are merely the vessels that hold the stories. The vessel may change shape, form or material but the stories will be with us forever. They are how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us, they give meaning to our existence and help us create meaning.
I hope many more parents than the 14% who read books and the 5% who read to their children take advantage of National Book Week to begin a new habit of reading and a new family tradition of reading to their children. Viva books viva! Viva National Book Week viva!