Kenya Publishers Association Cites Concern for Reading Culture

In News by Dennis Abrams

‘The problem with the Kenyan society is that we read mostly for exams.’ The country’s publishers say they’re troubled by children’s lack of a reading habit.
Image - iStockphoto: Miro Novak

Image – iStockphoto: Miro Novak

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

Wahome Mutahi Prize to Mbugua, Habwe

710-kenya-publishers-assoc-logo-linedWriting for the Daily Nation, and reposted at allAfrica, Patrick Lang’at reports that publishers in Kenya recently asked counties to set aside funds to buy books not required by official curricula, adding a request to the ministry of education to increase funding to purchase “other reading materials besides school textbooks.”

The Kenya Publishers Association declared that the state of the culture of reading in Kenya was troubling, and was affecting “the language development of children.”

David Waweru

David Waweru

In a written statement read by council member John Mwazemba, Kenya Publishers Association chairman David Waweru said:

“The problem with the Kenyan society is that we read mostly for exams, light academic fires and burn books as we dance after ‘completing education,.”

“The result is that we can barely communicate well in either English or Kiswahili, and most of our children cannot spell words correctly.”

Mwazemba spoke at Nairobi’s Laico Regency Hotel during a breakfast meeting with journalists, along with the Nairobi International Book Fair’s organizing committee chair Mary Maina and writer and publisher, professor Kithaka wa Mberia.

The Worldreader edition of John Habwe's Mutahi Prize-winning 'Kovu Moyoni'

The Worldreader edition of John Habwe’s Mutahi Prize-winning ‘Kovu Moyoni’

The Book Fair ran through Sunday (September 25) and included the announcement of the winners of the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize.

In addition, the association has called for the removal of value added tax (VAT) on books. They say the tax is a factor that discourages Kenyans from buying books.

Mwazemba is quoted saying, “VAT goes directly to punishing Kenyans for buying books, and is charged at the bookshops and goes straight to the government.”

The fair’s organizing committee chair Mary Maina added, “As things stand now, the VAT being imposed on books is eating into the funds allocated…for buying books.”

And Prof. Wa Mberia is quoted by Lang’at saying that a healthy culture of reading needs to start right at the beginning in the schools. “We have killed the reading right from schools. If you are found reading a book that is not examinable, teachers condemn the student, instead of encouraging them.”

Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize
Ng'ang'a Mbugua

Ng’ang’a Mbugua

As announced at Nairobi’s book fair and reported at the literature blog site, Ng’ang’a Mbugua won the Wahome Mutahi for his English language novel Angels of the Wild (One Planet Publishers). 

John Habwe won in the Kiswahili language category for Kovu Moyoni (BookMark Africa). The winners each receive an award of 100,000 Kenyan shillings (US$988).

John Habwe

John Habwe

Mbugua is managing editor of the Daily Nation, and his rivals in the English-language category were Komu Fights for Change by Peter Kareithi (Longhorn Publishing) and Ask the Stars by Anthony Mugo (Longhorn Publishing).

Books shortlisted for the prize in Kiswahili include: Mashetani wa Alepo by Tom Olali (Jomo Kenyatta Foundation) and Narejea Nyumbani by Jeff Mandila (also from the Kenyatta Foundation).


About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.