guest column:Peter Makwanya
A NUMBER of circumstances have contributed to the death of a reading culture, not only because of academic excellence, but also in terms of the emergence of climate change literature for awareness, literacy and education.
Climate change is the most topical and problematic issue of our time and its literature is still restricted to a few readers and on few platforms as well.
Influential and interactive platforms such as social media, digital publishing, websites and video recordings are not accessible to many, coupled with the disappearance of bookshops and hardcopies, which has left the majority of children short changed, excluded and neglected.
Children require a firm and broad reading base to provide them with wide choices, which also include climate change literature to spice up the uninspiring curricula.
The business environment is no longer attractive to writers and a shortage of writing incentives has thrown the once flourishing industry into the dust bin.
In Zimbabwe, gone are the days when reading was the in-thing at primary, secondary and tertiary level or the general public.
Of course, it was a pass-time of that era, but it made sense and contributed to a firm reading culture. As such, reading meant lots of things to the aspiring child as they always see adults interacting with print actively and every time. In terms of environmental sustainability, children are supposed to be at the heart of development as risk communicators and drivers of change.
With the desire to engage with the print media having faded, children’s creativity has been curtailed. While some would defend the current reading practices, punctuated by the emergence of online platforms, as comprehensively empowering and transformative enough, reading hard copies rather than soft-copies has its own intrinsic benefits.
Without reading materials and platforms accessible to the majority of children, the current crop of children can never be future climate heroes and defenders of the environment if they cannot grasp the sustainable concept of reading about climate change issues, during the formative stages.
It is the absence of climate change literature in schools, colleges, universities and for the general public which appears to have left children behind and this needs to be addressed.
The school curriculum is not doing much to promote climate change literature authorship for children’s books.
Children need climate change literacy early for sustainable mental growth in order to be able to make use of the information read or apply it through character-building activities like theatre, dance, music or visual arts. In this regard, reading is the gateway to all these character-building fundamentals since it is because of human attitudes and untoward behavioural that the environment is in this situation.
The nature of reading material children are exposed to these days is purpose directed for tests and examinations, rarely are the children seen reading in public or private for fun, leisure and recreation or general understanding.
This is because the few books available on the market are mostly academic-oriented; that is if they are available.
Children need to break from this vicious cycle and reach out to something more interesting and inspiring because all work and work will paralyse their creativity. Children don’t hate books as such, but they hate books that are flat and rudimentary.
Academic books, although highly educative are somehow uninspiring. The death of creative self-expression has also contributed to the craving for something new, that is climate change stories.
Coming up with creative designs leading to word formations or spellings, during an environmental activity would evoke strong memories on the children’s part. Children need to feel reading as tremendous fun and exciting. They like to invest in pleasure and joy, then everything becomes bright and beautiful, as well as appealing to a whole set of the broad network of human senses. They need to touch, see, smell, hear or taste in certain situations.
Engaging of senses promotes learning in holistic and empowering ways. Climate change is a complicated subject and writers are required to be versatile and innovative in their approach.
Although climate change is a problem, writers need not to mourn as they explain or describe it.
Writers are required to harness their originalities, credible and innovation lenses as well when presenting this essential and life-line discourse.
Child readers need to be afforded a number of practical choices so that they interact with the print in transforming ways.
In developing countries, the discourse of climate change is beginning to creep in the frame of reference of many people, but they are not yet confident enough to discuss it openly because they lack the required competences which have a lot to do with reading.
As a result, a number of people and stakeholders would prefer silence instead, keeping their mouth shut while exacerbating climate change at the same time.
The dangers are that if adults do not talk about climate change in public or even write about it, then how can children get inspired.
The issue here is that, climate change is real and its human-induced and as children they have roles to play also.
These children would also be able to reflect and demonstrate how best they can also regulate their own carbon footprints.
Therefore, reading on climate change helps in this regard.
Children should read in order to acquire sustainable knowledge and information, which they would use to correct the environmental sins of their parents.
It is from these sins that the children can mould and chat their resilient future.
Reading would expose the children to a wide range of climate literacy diversities like forests, land, agriculture, wild-life, human resources, all for the sustainable future and just one earth that they want.
In this regard, writers and curriculum developers are challenged to usher a new impetus and come up with serious new writing dimensions involving climate change literature.
Climate change literature needs to be found in libraries, schools’ nature and science corners as well as mobile community libraries. This is important in bringing information to the people who need it most.