alexa The secret to top exam marks is a reading culture - Daily Nation

The secret to top exam marks is a reading culture

Friday June 30 2017

Literature and literary appreciation have taken

Literature and literary appreciation have taken a beating in recent years largely due to advancement in technology coupled with emerging means of communication such as short messages, memes and emojis. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LUCY KAMAU

Literature and literary appreciation have taken a beating in recent years largely due to advancement in technology coupled with emerging means of communication such as short messages, memes and emojis.

On the one hand, communication has become fast and easy because a single symbol is enough to represent a word or even a whole sentence. No wonder the youth can chat using their phones all day long. Unfortunately, the words and sentences in most chats are neither correctly spelled nor grammatically constructed.

The era of letter writing as a means of communication is long forgotten and has been replaced by WhatsApp messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. The result is that many can no longer express their emotions, feelings, fears or joys using words because they only need a single smiley to say it all.

READING CULTURE DWINDLED

The reading culture among students has also dwindled considerably, and, as a result of this, the levels of functional literacy might be at risk in future. Playing games on the phone and watching movies have replaced reading as hobbies. More often than not, the things that young people gather from the Internet do more harm than good to their impressionable minds. Much of what they read online does not enhance their knowledge but distracts them instead. What makes them tick is the number of followers on social media, the likes and comments on their pictures and videos.

Students mostly read for exams because they have a perception that the material that is not examined is boring and unnecessary. Many fail to appreciate the benefits of extensive reading. To these students creativity and the ability to communicate effectively are limited because they only read for exams. Yet, developing a reading culture enhances an individual’s clarity of expression. When one is exposed to wide reading, one comes into contact with new words and phrases which make way into their vocabulary. This improves their knowledge and language competence in terms of grammar, spelling and general language use. Exposure to reading also enhances one’s creative and critical thinking skills because one is constantly in touch with new scenarios that expand their reasoning. The benefits go past language competence to also include writing skills.

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The more one meets new language and automatically incorporates it into their vocabulary, the easier one finds it to write. Their vocabulary is fresh through continuous acquisition of language skills from vast reading. Thus, writing for such a reader comes naturally because one draws from one’s wide range of vocabulary bank. Their writing is inspiring and interesting to different audiences. So reading boosts the other skills automatically, the more reasons why it should be embraced and encouraged. A good reader will be adept at speaking, listening, writing, reading and problem solving.

Through stories, a reader meets different life scenarios woven into a piece of writing and as the problem is solved, he or she learns from the experiences of the characters. For example in The River and The Source, as various characters interact and conflict with each other, the learner awaits the resolution which is also applicable to real life scenarios. As Akoko goes through various challenges, the learner gleans the skills that Akoko uses to solve the problems she faces. The learner also draws from the wisdom of Elizabeth and Mark, the diligence of Aoro and the dedication of Wandia.

Learners draw vital lessons from such texts and can incorporate these lessons to their lives. From the interactions with books, a learner encounters different scenarios and this exposes him to how problems are solved. This expands their ability to solve issues in their own environments.

Reading is also therapeutic. As one reads and identifies with different characters, one derives some relief and joy. The reader goes through a range of emotions; he empathises and gets healing at the end when the solution is arrived at. Reading can also be done for pleasure; it is a great way to fast forward a long, boring day. A person delving into an interesting piece of writing has no room for loneliness or boredom. Reading for pleasure does not start and end with a motivational book by your pastor or a romantic novel. It can include biographies, journals, newspaper articles, memoirs, short stories and many more. As one reads for enjoyment they also learn what is happening in the world around them and keep building on their knowledge.

A culture of reading is also important in building careers. To a reader, a whole range of careers is within grasp, from writing articles and books, blogging, teaching, editing, leadership... the list is endless. The reading culture exposes one to different topics and perspectives of the world. Thus, such a reader can write authoritatively on any topic under the sun. Reading, therefore, opens a myriad of opportunities to this reader since their level of knowledge is limitless. Moreover, a person who loves reading will be motivated to further their education and careers. Their motivation is not just a job to gain an income from but to increase their professional knowledge. A good reader exudes confidence in all areas even beyond their professional lives. Thus, good readers are likely to make good leaders.

GREAT LEADERS, GREAT READERS

Great leaders have always been great readers. Some of them include Barrack Obama, Nelson Mandela, just to mention two. Leaders who read live a thousand lives in one life time due to the exposure to diverse books. Barack Obama is a classic example of a good reader who has penned a few books and whose speeches have always been captivating and inspiring. This is the kind of all roundedness required of an individual.

Students who are waiting for their exams need to appreciate the fact that the Internet and social media is entertaining engaging and informative, but they need more than that as far as preparing and handling exams is concerned. Questions, especially on literature, require a critical mind that can not only memorise but also comprehend, interpret, apply and synthesise information read.

Literature questions focus on all these areas and that is why it is mandatory for them master the set texts in order to be well equipped with the necessary knowledge which will enable them meet the expectations and the demands of various questions. The copy-and-paste of material from past papers might not help much since literature requires one to apply their knowledge of the text as opposed to recall. A student needs to internalise the plot of the set texts in order to apply that knowledge to any exam question.

A student who has comprehended a text is able to retell the story, giving the fine details using their own words. Such details are important when tackling context questions, some of which require placing an extract in its immediate context, that is internalising the details of the plot and the order in which events appear in the text. Application is the ability to relate what is in the text to different situations, especially in our day-to-day lives. Analysis questions expect the students scrutinise the text and discover intended or implied meanings which are not so direct. This can be done by examining the relationships among words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs and how these relationships help to bring out the intended meaning in the text. Evaluation questions require students to make judgment based on the information given in text. The answers given for questions on evaluation cannot be picked directly from the text.

In consideration of the above, the Saturday Nation will from next week publish reviews and analysis of the KSCE set texts. This will help students, especially candidates as they prepare for their exams, to develop a critical and analytical approach to reading.  Students will also be  exposed to various questions that will further expose them to literature content. They will also be guided on how to approach the questions.

Readers are invited to make contributions or comments on the areas covered through letters to the editor. The best essays will be recognised and appreciated. We look forward to an interactive experience.

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