Reading is a skill that is vital to the development of an individual’s mind and for that matter the growth and progression of one’s life. It is even more beneficial for children when they are in their most impressionable stage of development, to develop good reading habits in them as they progress through the various stages of life as pupils, students, and into the adult life of career-hood. Reading for leisure has been seen as an effective way to cultivate the creative and critical thinking skills of children, and to enable them develop strong social skills. Furthermore, recreational reading contributes to the development of literary skills, vocabulary expansion, and memory improvement. This study was designed to find out the reading habits of teenagers from Star International Preparatory School in Teshie, and the Ministry of Health Basic School in Korle Bu. The choice of these two schools was informed by the intuition that pupils from the two schools would differ substantially in terms of their projected socio-economic backgrounds, and this difference should produce differences in terms of access to information generally, and in their leisure reading habits. It used the Junior Graphic newspaper, a leisure (non-academic) reading material, as an indicator of reading habits. A sample size of sixty students was chosen from each school, totalling a hundred and twenty. The study was based on the mass media theories of uses and gratifications and media systems dependency. The research applied quantitative methodology and the survey method of data collection by administering close-ended questionnaires to the sampled students to find out their engagement with the Junior Graphic. The study ascertained why the selected teenagers chose to read the Junior Graphic, what content they normally read in the newspaper, and the reasons for their reading practices. The study found that a majority of respondents read the Junior Graphic for no more than an hour a day, and in effect, that leisure reading was not a habitual or routine part of the media and information habits of teenagers. However, when they read, the reasons have tended to be for purposes of news/information, social validation, and education or knowledge acquisition.
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
In what has been characterized as an information age (Kline, 2005; Merber, 2009), reading has gained currency for accomplishments in all spheres of human endeavour such as social, political, economic and educational. Hence reading habits must be nurtured and enhanced. This chapter expresses the context and contentions that characterize policies and practices regarding the reading habits of teenagers in other parts of the African continent and the world. The discourse suggests an inexcusable recession in reading habits within a dynamic and technologically driven media ecology. Following from this, the chapter addresses the research problem, explains the objectives of the study and the research questions, provides brief profiles of the subjects of the research interest, and describes the scope and significance of the study.
Reading depends on the individual’s ability to interpret printed or electronic page fully and accurately. Reading habits amount to how much a person reads, how often they read, when they do and what content in the material they look out for (Rosli, Razali, Zamil, Noor & Baharuddin, 2017). The habit is best acquired at a young age, and once formed it can last a lifetime and this is said to play an important role in the life of a person. It is not only the gateway to knowledge acquisition but also aids in the development of an individual, academically, socially and personally (Chettri & Rout, 2013). Reading contributes to the smooth progression through life from childhood as a pupil to being a student, an employee, employer or entrepreneur. For this progression to be realized, reading has to be a habit and the formation and early inculcation of this habit as a young child leads to the drive to seek knowledge through reading as they grow.
Good reading habits empower a person with the opportunity to broaden his or her knowledge base but yet, reading habits among students in general have become a source of concern to stakeholders, who constantly complain about the low standards in both writing and speaking of the English language (Arthur, 2006). When attention is paid to reading habits and improved, it will increase the vocabulary of individuals and enable them to speak and write well. Reading attitudes lead to positive reading experiences which also lead to higher academic performance. There are varied reasons why an individual may read. Some read to be abreast with trending issues, some read to alleviate boredom, while others read to while away time or to acquire knowledge in order to pass their examination among others. To some, reading is for leisure and a hobby (Stebbins 2013). Reading is further considered as a basic tool for learning and therefore important to every individual.
Importance of Reading
The European Literacy Policy Network (ELPN) defines literacy as the ability to read and write at a level whereby individuals can effectively understand and use written communication in all media (print or electronic), including digital literacy (ELPN, 2012). Owusu-Acheaw (2014), also defines reading as the process of looking at written symbols and making meaning of them or an active endeavour by a reader to comprehend a writer’s message.
The super structure of human civilization is built on the foundation of literacy. The impact of literacy on socio-economic development is positive and can be easily determined by comparing the standard of living, per capita income, Gross Domestic Product, industrialization and development of infrastructure within a country (Lal, 2015). Literacy enhances the working capabilities of people by providing them with skill development. Literacy and socio-economic
development have an endless companionship that has proven over time to be an asset for any individual, group, or country that identifies the importance of said combination. Reading is important because it develops the mind. Understanding the written word is one way the mind grows in its ability to understand new things.
Teaching young children to read helps them develop their learning skills for adulthood. A person who knows how to read can educate him or herself in things they were not previously aware of especially in this age of technological advancement where the world is overflowing with information. Therefore, without the ability to read it will be difficult for an individual to identify what they need to know much more make sense of the words they see before them. This implies that reading enables a person to take advantage of the information opportunities available today.
Every individual needs to make that choice to read. In this regard, reading can be classified as either recreational or assigned. Leisure reading is termed as voluntary reading where the books or reading materials are selected by the individual without pressure from another individual. This contributes a lot to the development of enduring reading habits that very often span a lifetime and have a positive effect on the reader’s language and literacy skills. However, research has documented that globally, most teenagers tend to read mostly for academic purposes such as learning for class participation, to pass examinations, school projects, among others as against recreational reading (Loan & Shah, 2017).
Reading is an essential and important feature in creating a literate Ghanaian society. According to Owusu-Acheaw (2014), good reading habits are strong weapons necessary for the Ghanaian student to excel in life. However, Agyemang Duah (2015) found that the Ghanaian student was yet to make this discovery for their own advancement. For Agyeman-Duah (2014), the reading
habits of the Ghanaian youth has never been impressive. He observed that youngsters preferred to sleep or watch movies when they had nothing to do than to read a newspaper or a book. Another key observation his study made was the stagnation in the number and use of public and community libraries, partly leading to the falling educational standards since students’ interests in reading beyond recommended course materials was waning.
A 2008 report released by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) indicated that teachers of the English language were concerned about the kind of English presented by pupils at the various levels of national examinations; especially as English is the generally accepted official language in both academic and corporate communication in the country (WAEC 2008). In an earlier study by Ameyaw and Anto (2018), they recommended that young ones must be coached to develop good reading habits since it is essential to the attainment of quality education and improvement in their literacy skills. Their study argued that good reading habits do not only increase knowledge but also facilitate mental development. The study found that a lot of innovative ideas have come about as a result of the innovators reading on various subjects and analyzing the diverse information and knowledge they have acquired from reading, to arrive at unique ideas (Ameyaw & Anto, 2018).
However, the advancement in communication and entertainment technology in today’s world is negatively impacting teenagers’ interest in reading non-academic materials such as novels, newspapers and magazines. As a result, Ghanaian leaders, parents, guardians, and teachers are working hard to nullify that old saying that ‘if you want to hide something from a Ghanaian or an African child, hide it in a book’. In such quest, efforts are being channeled into arousing reading interests in young ones through the establishment of mobile libraries as well as reading and spelling competitions (Asamoah Hassan, 2003). As Nyamekye (2016) states, reading
habits and interests are not innate but developed over time. Wolf (2006) also opined that the act of reading should not be seen as transferable through genes but that a conscious effort must be made to guide young teens to mold good reading habits. Focused effort should therefore be directed at developing reading in children from infancy (Chettri & Rout, 2013) since the development of a child’s leisure reading habits leads to improvement in future learning abilities and skills. At higher levels of education and with longer texts to consider and contend with, the understanding of word relationships, sentence construction or structure, and a good interpretation of the context becomes more significant. It is therefore very important that reading habits are instilled and constantly improved in children from an early age to last them a life time (Green, 2001). This improvement can only be effectively planned and efficiently executed based on empirical assessment and diagnosis of the challenges and enablers of current reading habits.
Reading serves as a catalyst for success, provides avenues for obtaining information for the development of ideas, and facilitates mastery in language and vocabulary which ultimately enable a person to develop and have opinions on issues related to his or her existence in the world. Thus, reading as a social phenomenon is necessary for healthy intellectual growth, self- education and lifelong learning. It is therefore necessary for an individual to have a healthy reading habit and it is prudent that children are introduced to good reading habits in order for reading to be a natural preference for them as they grow through adolescence into adulthood. This study investigates reading habits of the readers of the Junior Graphic newspaper. Reading habits are measured by how often, what, and how well teenagers read (Loan & Shah, 2017). The habit here according to Green (2001), could also refer to the reading, and the normal time spent on reading materials. Sahai (1970) conducted a study on newspaper and magazine
reading interests of library users which revealed that more than 90 percent of the users read newspapers and magazines rather than books.
Reading habits, according to Clarke and Akerman (2015) could be influenced to a large extent by social and economic factors such as the disposable income of the school going child. Gender as a demographic variable is also a predictor of what (Hopper, 2005), how (Millard, 1997) and how much (OECD/UNESCO, 2003) young people read. In the study by Clarke and Akerman (2015), boys were found to be less enthusiastic about reading than girls. With regard to the socio-economic factors that influence reading habit, the ability or inability of a pupil to purchase reading materials, the role of parents and the availability of other reading materials at home were dominant. The less able or endowed pupils were to afford reading materials, the less interested they were in reading, the study found. Furthermore, recent studies show that there is an increasing rate of illiteracy all over the world as a result of poor socio-economic statuses (Wilson, Anderson and Fielding, 2004).
A study conducted by the World Statistics Institute (WSI) in 2004 showed that over 27 percent of people were illiterates globally. A later study by WSI in 2008 revealed that illiteracy rates were ascending at 32 percent and these rates are quite worrying because illiteracy has negative effects on society’s development (MediaCet, 2010).
- The Junior Graphic
In an attempt to satisfy young readers’ interests, the Graphic Communication Group launched the Junior Graphic, a subsidiary newspaper in the year 2000 with predominantly teenagers as its target readers. Junior Graphic is a paid-for sixteen page newspaper published every Wednesday at a selling price of GHS 1.50. The content of Junior Graphic ranges from teen
news, pieces of advice, puzzles, stories, articles, letters to Aunty Betty and the Editor among others. Close to two decades after the first publication, there is the need to assess the reading habits of its primary target audiences; in terms of what they read, for how long and when they read the Junior Graphic.
A proper evaluation of what teenagers read in Junior Graphic, for how long they read and the periods they do read can be taken advantage of, for example, to revise the content of the newspaper to improve the existing habits and make the newspaper more appealing to teenagers (Shafi and Loan, 2010) which can help in attracting them to read more. It would also establish what roles other stakeholders have to play in the formation of these habits.
Statement of the problem
In the contemporary media ecology, reading has become a strategic activity, in that, people read to achieve a purpose. Examples of such purposeful reading are to pass an examination, to prepare for an interview or to project oneself as knowledgeable; all pointing to the fact that both adults and children read. In today’s environment, it is rare to find a teenager sitting alone reading a hard copy novel or an electronic version of it either on their phones, tablets or laptops. Rather, it is a common sight to encounter teenagers interacting with contemporaries through WhatsApp, Instagram, Tweets, conversing in chat rooms, watching movies and playing games (Issa, 2012). Studies (Leu & Leu 1997; Olszak 2015) have found that due to a lack of reading habits in teenagers, they fail to realize that leisure reading fosters personal, moral and intellectual growth and these benefits can only be attained if a person chooses to read other literature than their academic readings.
In the 21st century reading and the search for information in newspapers have taken a back seat and give way to new media and other desires. However, not all teenagers tend to spend their free or leisure times in the virtual world or online. Some teenagers still get to know their world through reading of non-academic materials such as newspapers and in Ghana, a few teenagers still voluntarily buy non-academic reading materials such as the Junior Graphic Newspaper.
Junior Graphic as a newspaper, and a non-academic material, has been in existence for decades, yet, there exists scanty documentation on the habits of its target readers namely teenagers. Not much work has been done on newspaper readership of teenagers in Ghana. Most of the literature on reading habits pertain to Europe, American and Asia. From the above, it may be the case that Junior Graphic, with its teen centered content, could be leveraged to battle the lack of enthusiasm to read amongst today’s Ghanaian teenagers as found by Anti (2000). His study found that the enthusiasm on the part of young adults to read leisurely is on the decline but could be aroused. It is against this background that this study has become necessary.
Scales and Rhee (2001) found that media preferences of teenagers consist of newspapers, movies, music, magazines and books. However, newspapers were the least preferred in comparison to the other types of non-academic reading materials. Tella and Akande (2007) also found that most people especially children and teenagers in Sub-Saharan Africa had less access to books and other learning materials and this tended to affect their reading culture. That notwithstanding, there is a dearth of knowledge in Ghana on teenagers’ reading habits of newspapers and more specifically, Junior Graphic. The problem this study sought to investigate is, in an attempt by teenagers to seek information in the Junior Graphic, what habits
manifest so that the attention of teachers, parents and publishers could be drawn to them to help these teenagers make the best out of their reading experience.
The main objective of the study is to understand the reading habits of teenagers, identify their preferences, reading duration and times. Specifically, this study sought to
- assess teenagers’ reading preferences of Junior Graphic content.
- explore teenagers’ reading times/periods of Junior Graphic.
- document the duration of reading the Junior Graphic among teenagers.
- document the frequency of reading the Junior Graphic among teenagers.
Following from the objectives articulated above, the following specific research questions were formulated to guide the design and execution of this study.
- What are teenagers’ reading preferences of Junior Graphic content?
- What times do teenagers engage with the Junior Graphic content?
- How long do teenagers read Junior Graphic content?
- How often do teenagers read Junior Graphic content?
Scope of study
The goal of this research was to determine the habits of teenagers’ leisure reading, especially with regards to the reading of the Junior Graphic as a non-academic text that covers different subjects for young people. This study pertains to 120 teenagers between the ages of 12 to 15 years in two schools, one public and the other private, that are subscribers and readers of Junior Graphic, and to find out what the teenagers look out for when they read the Junior Graphic.
The justification for both private and public schools is that, the Ghanaian education system is basically in these two forms.