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January 22, 2016

Nipping extremist thoughts in the bud


January 22, 2016

Comic artist initiates book-reading campaign in schools to reduce children’s vulnerability to religious fundamentalism

Karachi: Irked by the dying book-reading culture in Pakistan, and the resulting susceptibility of the nation to extremist ideas, comic artist Nofal K Khan - of the Kachee Goliyan fame – started off a campaign, The Book Club of Karachi, aimed at organising story-telling sessions at schools across the metropolis.

Sitting down with The News to discuss the details of his project, Khan said the main objective of the initiative was to revive peoples’ interest in reading by engaging them in literary discussions.

Having already organised sessions at different schools, in assistance with his team members, the comic artist said the feedback of the activities was overwhelming. 

For Khan, the only way out of the quagmire of extremism and terrorism plaguing our society was to make efforts to revive book-reading at the grassroots level.

“We live in a time dictated by terror and violence. But we can overturn our plight by educating the young and enhancing their cognitive abilities which would help them in differentiating between right and wrong.”

He further added that it was more important to push children to think, since their minds were not only more open to different kinds of ideas but also had the ability to acknowledge the differences in those ideas.

Expressing concern over a dismal number of public libraries in the city, he said this was precisely why we as a nation had stopped reading books. “This city was home to hundreds of book shops but sadly most of them have run out of business,” he noted.

However, Khan’s campaign does not stop at organising reading sessions only but also encompasses of a book-collection drive.

Under the ‘Karachi Book Drive’ campaign various collection points have been set-up at cafes and bakeries across the city where people were donating books which would later be used to establish libraries in schools located in low-income areas such as Lyari, Landhi, Korangi and Malir.

Liaquat Memorial Library Director Bashir Ali Abro while sharing his thoughts over the crucial issue said nothing else could be blamed more for encouraging apathy towards the culture of book-reading than our educational system.

Previously we used to have teachers who would prepare proper lectures, but now we have teachers who handover notes to their students and ask them to only learn from the notes provided, he said, adding that “It is through this exercise that students developed a habit of rote learning and were completely unable to develop research skills.”

Speaking of the ever diminishing number of library visitors, Abro claimed that at least hundreds of students come to the library on a daily basis, but most of them come to read their course books only.

“This library (LML) has a collection of over 200,000 books in English, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and other languages, but books are of no use if readers show no interest in them.”

A dedicated researcher and writer with an interest in pre-partition sites, Akhter Baloch blamed the media for failing to instil in the masses an interest towards reading; “Our local newspapers used to regularly publish book reviews but now we hardly have a newspaper which prints them."

He also expressed disappointment over the prices books were being on sold today. “It is impossible that a person belonging to a middle-income household can buy a book published by a foreign publishing house.