Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, was filled to capacity with children from various primary schools in Lagos recently, as they gathered to mark this year’s edition of the ‘World Book Day.’
The event, put together by FAMFA Oil Limited, was aimed at cultivating and improving reading culture in the minds of pupils, and it cut across different religions and tribes.
The children, from primary schools in Lagos Island and Lagos Mainland, were thrilled and full of excitement. They watched a dance-drama presentation titled “I wish, I wish,” staged by Proud African Roots Production. The play focused on a mystical wind of wishes that led a girl into a world of adventure. For these future leaders, the play portrayed the values of leadership and good moral values.
The objective of the gathering was to encourage the younger generation to get engaged in literature and to promote reading and publishing. At the event on the World Book Day, a book, “Chidubem: A Child of Destiny,” written by 11-year-old Munachi Mbonu, was read to the schoolchildren.
The first to read was Mrs. Naza Alakija, followed by the Google country manager for Nigeria, Mrs. Juliet Ehimuan Chiazor, co-founder and vice chairman of Channels Media Group, Mrs. Olusola Momoh, and managing director/chief executive officer, Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo.
“Chidubem: A Child of Destiny” revolves around a young boy, Chidubem, from a humble background, who longs to fulfill his dreams of being a great person and to see his family prosper. And through many ups and downs, Chidubem learns to face life head-on and handles every obstacle thrown his way because he has made books his companion.
The stage play, which was a musical drama, got the children so excited and they screamed, shouted and jumped as characters in the play featured as different animas, like the zebra, leopard and cheetah; they performed on stage and interacted with some of the children.
Mrs. Naza Alakija said she loved reading and was able to cultivate the habit from childhood, adding that children these days were addicted to iPads and other modern gadgets. She stressed, therefore, that there was a need to get the children to start having a passion for reading and getting immersed in storybooks and learning from them.
“I think everybody can do their part. It is always good to start from somewhere and develop a platform where other people can be inspired, especially those that do not have the opportunities that other children have. I think it is definitely inspiring, not just for the children but inspiring others to contribute, get involved and see what part they play,” she said.
Executive director of FAMFA Oil, Mr. Rotimi Alakija, said the company has been investing in the development of the Nigerian society for a while now. He noted, however, that, as part of FAMFA’s corporate social responsibility, the company, in collaboration with the United for Education Foundation (U4E), a non-profit educational volunteer mobilisation organisation, decided to hold the event.
The event, which had the theme “Share a Story,” was aimed at encouraging better reading culture in public and private primary school pupils, with the overall objective of inspiring the children to understand Nigerian cultures and promote unity by sharing the same story.
The focus, aside from the fun the kids had during the event, was to heighten their literacy competencies through re-inforcing the importance of reading.
Speaking further, the FAMFA executive director said: “Education is important and so are our stories. Without our stories, we lose our sense of identity and our identity is made up of our people. So, if we lose our stories, we lose ourselves as a nation, and our identity is important because it makes us who we are in the world.
“We want to be able to inspire Nigerians and, most importantly, African writers. We want them to tell our own stories and push them out. Our culture is very important and it should be out and celebrated. Reading should be enjoyed, reading should not be a chore. It should be a fantasy, and it should be a conversational piece, something you can talk about.”
Mrs. Momoh said reading to the children made her feel like a little girl again.
“I still appreciate the fact that a lot of people are promoting the learning culture, which is fading away with the advent of the Internet. I call on everyone to inspire and indulge their children and wards to, please, read. There is nothing that can be compared to reading,” she said.