The Habit of Reading
A True Story
on Apr 20, 2021
On November or December last year as I was heading home during my evening exercises, I happened to walk behind two teen girls and eavesdrop what they were saying to each other. One of the girls was boasting to the other of how she hadn't read a book since schools were closed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She claimed with an air of pride that she hadn't even touched the Bible. As I listened to her speak, I thought to myself how foolish it was of her to disdain books.
The girl reminded me of what Paul Ouma, the 2006 Starehe Institute captain, told us one morning in 2006 when we were in Starehe: that some people are like wheelbarrows - they can never do anything unless pushed. That teen girl was acting like a wheelbarrow; without being pushed by school to read, she couldn't do it herself.
I later resolved that if I ever get lucky to have children and overhear them boasting of how they never read, I will give them a good spanking - the kind of spanking the book of Proverbs exhorts parents to administer to errant children. But I want to believe I will succeed in inculcating in my children the same love for reading that my father instilled in me.
Yes, my father did instill in me a love for reading. When I was growing up in the '90s, he bought for us plenty of books, magazines and newspapers which he encouraged us to read. He even offered us private tuition at home, mostly in writing and in Mathematics. For my father, Maths was his forte.
I vividly recall the day in 1994 when I picked a Swahili textbook to read; I was six years old at the time and in Standard One. And wow! When I discovered that I could read the Swahili textbook, I felt a quiver of excitement run through me. And after that discovery that I could read, I don't think I ever stopped reading for the rest of my time in primary school.
It was as a result of reading a lot that I passed the 2001 national primary school exams and got into Starehe Boys' Centre, a prestigious institution in Nairobi where I had my high school as well as college education. At Starehe, I became preoccupied with reading books, mostly to pass the exams that we frequently took at school.
When I was preparing to sit for the SAT exams in 2006 during my time in Starehe Institute, I was encouraged to read widely and wisely by an SAT revision textbook that said reading broadly is the only means of enriching our vocabularies. So I read a variety of books not only in the subjects we were learning in the institute but also in other fields such as literature, motivation and entrepreneurship.
Then when I was a first-year student at JKUAT in 2007, I was inspired to read even more by somebody at the university who was promoting a reading culture among students by hanging posters that encouraged us to read. On one such poster was a picture of Barack Obama with a quote on it that said, "If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads."
Those encouragements to read that I received in Starehe Institute and at JKUAT kept pulling me back to books every time I was discouraged from reading such as when I was forcefully admitted to hospital in 2008 after I went astray at JKUAT. They have also made me gravitate back to books in the times within the last eleven years when I became too bored to read.
Reading has now grown into a passion for me. These days, I don't read to pass exams; I read to be entertained, to be inspired and to be enriched with knowledge. The knowledge I have gained has enabled me to overcome my dark past. And I tend to believe it will also unlock for me the doors of opportunities I need to live the life of my dreams.
Such is the passion for reading that I will inculcate in my children if I ever have some. And I will encourage my children to read not by force but by example. I will have them see me curl up with a good book in the evening instead of watching the telly or surfing the Net. By encouraging my children to read, I will prepare them not only to excel in school but to also make a lasting difference on this grand and magnificent planet.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the habit of reading, you might also enjoy another one I wrote a few years ago on "Books I'd Love to Read Again". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
Sharing is CaringLike this story? Then share it on:
Donating = LovingIt takes so much time to research, write and edit the stories and videos in this blog. If you do find any joy in going through them, please consider supporting the author with a donation of any amount - anything from buying him a cuppa to treating him to a good dinner. Thanks to everyone who is contributing; you rock!
Book Review: "The Audacity of Hope"
A True Story
on Apr 15, 2021
Wow! I just finished reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope two days ago. What a delightful read it was! This was the third book I devoured this year which captured my attention in the first pages so much that I read to understand it, not to finish it. And I was disappointed to finish reading the book; disapponted because I wanted the pleasure of my reading to go on and on. Allow me to tell you more about the book and what I gleaned from it.
Obama penned The Audacity of Hope in 2006 when he was serving as a U.S. Senator from Illinois. He wrote the book elegantly and candidly, using lively words, in a way that was both lucid and refreshing.
He began the book by narrating how he conducted his first campaign when he ran for a political office in the '90s. It is somewhat inspiring to read his account of the campaign: how he would talk to people he met on the campaign trail and listen to what they had to say, whether they were friendly, indifferent or hostile. Some of the people would find Obama so nice that they would wonder why he was getting into such a nasty and dirty career as politics. But most of them appreciated his earnestness and youthful swagger that they elected him to the Illinois state legislature.
Then Obama narrated how he again ran for another political seat during the 2000 election cycle in the United States. He fared badly in the election and failed to clinch the seat. The setback was a rude awakening to him that things don't always work out the way we have planned them. But the setback didn't discourage Obama from following his passion for politics; it only made him wiser.
As the 2000s wore on, Obama prepared and ran for a bigger political seat: a senatorial seat to represent Illinios. This time, he emerged victorious in the race, aided by the national spotlight he gained after delivering the keynote speech during the 2004 Democratic National Conventiom held in Boston. The keynote speech was in a word, eloquent.
While serving as a U.S. Senator, Obama conducted town hall meetings in Illinios to listen to the problems of his constituents. He wrote of how gratifying it was to see folks turn up for the meetings, sometimes in large numbers, to air their grievances. Those meetings gave Obama blinding insights on what was ailing America - such as the loss of high-skilled, high-wage jobs.
As a U.S. Senator, Obama also interacted with other leaders as well as captains of industries in the United States and in other parts of the world. I admire the way he travelled around the world, to such countries as Iraq, Ukraine and Russia, to get a glimpse of what was transpiring in other nations. Those travels added to his wealth of knowledge.
It is from that wealth of knowledge that Obama derived the ideas he postulated in The Audacity of Hope on how America could be a richer, smarter and safer nation. The book brought out Obama as a dedicated, knowledgeable and hard-working leader. He not only understood the present-day problems of his nation, he also possessed an in-depth knowledge of American history.
The book also portrayed Obama as a loving husband and a devoted father. He recounted in the book about the joys and challenges he faced in the early years of his marriage to Michelle. And he pointed out how he has tried to spare time from his busy schedule to be there for his daughters. It is from those times with his family that Obama derived some of his ideas on how America could help strengthen the families of its citizens.
Reading The Audacity of Hope has reminded me once again that America - the so-called land of freedom and opportunity - is not an utopia. The nation suffers from crime, racism, poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and other social ills that bedevil developing countries like mine.
By the way, this wasn't the first time I have read The Audacity of Hope. Back in 2012 when I was running for a political seat here in Kenya, I read a PDF version of the book on my father's computer. And after reading the ebook, I felt inspired to conduct my campaign the way Obama did when he first vied for a political seat in the '90s. But you know what? Upon registering to be a candidate for the political seat, I found myself lacking the charisma and youthful energy that was characteristic of Obama.
If you are a leader or aspiring to be one, I highly recommend that you read Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope which, to the best of my knowledge, was the third book by a U.S. Senator to hit the best-seller list since John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage and Al Gore's Earth in the Balance. It sure is a delightful read.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this book review on Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope, you might also enjoy another one I wrote some time back on "Lessons From Barack Obama". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.