By Gabriel Dinda
A birthday is a special day for most people. Some people attach special importance to a birthday such that if one forgets their birthday, it is interpreted as a lack of love. We give gifts during such days and delight at the privilege of one more year in their lives.
Many people have complained of a poor reading culture in Kenya. Many are accused of not reading besides for academic purposes. In fact, many people participated in the ‘Academic fires’, where books were burnt after completion of national examinations in Form Four. While this assertion may be true, we chose not to join those who despair and do something about it.
We came up with the ‘Books4Birthdays’ initiative where we encourage people to commit to giving books to their loved ones during their birthdays. Even though the campaign has a special focus on Birthdays, it actually means considering books as gifts on special days including Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Anniversaries, weddings, etc. The campaign started at the beginning of April and is expected to go until October 2020. The culmination will be at the Nairobi International Bookfair, 2020
The gifting of books is not only taken to mean the physical act of dishing out books. It symbolizes a show of support and solidarity with the other person, starting with the book. Therefore, here are suggested ideas to help with the whole campaign;
- Before you start announcing to your friends about your birthday hence the willingness to receive books as gifts from them, first give. The best way to ask for a gift is to actually give a gift. However, even when you gift someone, do not expect them to reciprocate. Just give and leave it at that.
- Follow up with the person you gifted after a period of time and ask them if they read the book(s), what they learnt from the book and resolutions they made after reading the book. If possible, discuss with them and ask them to write a book review of the same and share with you/or their friends
- When you receive a book as a gift from your friend on your special day, the best way to thank them is to read it. Read it and get back to them on what you learnt, how the book challenged you and what decision you take on the same.
- You may be willing to gift a book but unable to purchase it. Don’t worry, you can actually recommend a book and guide your friend on how and where to get it-even if in an online platform. You could even share with them an interesting article from a blogpost during their birthday.
- Since gifting your friend with a book is only symbolic, by gifting them, you somehow commit to help them grow. So feel free to invite them for a reading related event, book launch, or any other activity which can help them be a better reader and a better person.
- Start activities related to this. Here are some ideas you could start:
- Start a book club at home/where you stay. A book club involves getting one or two people with whom you stay to read a book together rotationally at designated times and discuss. One of you reads the book as the other listens and vice versa. You do this for 30-45 minutes daily and discuss the readings.
- Involve books in your romantic dates: When you take your loved ones out, what other better way to treat them than to carry a book and read together? It gives you a chance to introduce ‘difficult’ topics and opens the other person to share a part of them that you didn’t know existed. Please, the next time you are taken out, decline to go if a book is not involved.
- Start a library at your home: Have a small bookshelf and dedicate a small corner in your house as your library. Every book that you buy or you are gifted, read it and keep it. Every time you see it, your mind picks an idea that it is joyful to read. Tell your visitors about the library and history of books in it. If possible, let the library be in a place where everyone who visits you can see.
- Allocate a specific budget for books: When you budget for utility bills, rent and food, include books. Dedicate a specific amount of your monthly income to buy books (at least one for you and one for your friends/loved ones).
- Infuse books in your life: Follow a TV show or two, which is about books, subscribe to a books-related YouTube Channel. Attend books related events once in a while, quote a book or two in your speeches. Try by all means to make books part of your life.
- Register and visit a library occasionally: Are you a registered member of any library? When was the last time you visited a library? Include it in your plan. If you have children, take them with you to the library. Start this habit especially when they are very young. When you go shopping with them, pass by a bookshop and let them see and smell the books. Raise children in an environment where they’re conscious of books and things will be easier for them when they grow up.
- Introduce incentives: Make reading cool If your child likes to be taken out, tie it to reading-somehow. Gift them a book and tell them that when they finish reading, you will take them out. Keep your promise. Tie the promises about what your loved ones like to books.
- Include books in your Conversations: When your friend is in distress, gift them a book. When your friend is getting married, gift them a book that prepares them for marriage. When you visit your friend in hospital, gift them a book that will uplift their spirits. When your friends or siblings graduate, gift them a book (if anything, they have received the power to read). Let books be your default gift, you will not go wrong with it.
- When you travel to a new country or town, buy a book: More like those people who have hobbies of buying wine from different towns. Visit a library and bookshop in the town and see the nature of the books they have. While connecting flights, pass by the bookshops at the airport and pick a book or two. When you buy a book from a town you visit, write the date you have bought it or let one of your friends in that town sign it for you. Forty years later, it will be a great treasure and sweet memory.
- Window Shop in Bookshops/Online Bookstores: Just like you sometimes visit shopping malls and window shop; we encourage that you do the same for books. Pass by bookshops every time you visit a supermarket or a town. You may also take some time and browse through online book stores to see what is current and what the new books are.
As you can see, this initiative is broader than just dishing out books as gifts or asking for the same. It is just but a gateway to a whole new world of books which you are invited to. Indeed, the joy of books is immense and we have a chance of sharing it during this time and always. You may reach out to us through the email provided should you have any questions or more ideas which will help us all read. Otherwise, let’s start the gifting spree.
Gabriel Dinda is the Founder of Writers Guild Kenya. Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org