Why your LGA should have a book club
By Richard Mammah
The Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria, NBRP is on a mission. It’s stated goal is to ensure that every local government area, LGA in Nigeria has at least one book club. Does your local government have a book club? If the answer is no, what can you do about it?
This was the message that the NBRP took to the just ended 20th edition of the annual Nigerian International Book Fair, NIBF that took place in Victoria Island, Lagos.
As a community of people with a passion for reading and life-long knowledge acquisition, book clubs definitely do a lot of good in societies where they have been established and are thriving. With knowledge being about the most prominent factor in the success equation, it is almost a no-brainer then that communities that invest most voraciously in the continuing aquisition and deployment of knowledge are sure to stand out as some of the most vibrant and prosperous in the world. So book clubs make sense. And to make it even more exciting, almost every passionate reader can start and run one.
For the NBRP, the average recommended size for book club membership is 25 members. But there are also book clubs with hundreds and thousands of members. The rule of thumb here is simple: get the numbers that you can conveniently manage within a framework that must however continue to encourage maximum membership participation, expression and growth.
Again, another important point has to do with where and how to find your members. On this, you do not need to look very far: they are in your neighbourhood. And note here also that in today’s world, neighbourhoods and communities are not just physical. There are thriving virtual book clubs.
To walk our talk, NBRP has since its inception in February 2021, not only continued to serve as an aggregator and mutual advocacy centre for existing book clubs and reading promotions organisations in the country, it has also gone out there to encourage and facilitate the emergence of new ones. And here we will share three recent testimonies.
In Oleh, Delta State, NBRP has collaborated with the Oleh Divisional Public Library to set up an Oleh Book Club. After getting word that the library complex had been quite generously renovated by a private foundation but was lacking books and readers, we set up a machinery to aggregate some of the local reading population into a book club that would become the catalyst for driving both books and readers for the complex and beyond. The scheme was formally flagged off with a Children’s Day Reading event on May 27, 2021.
In Akwa Ibom State, the Network is deploying a different approach at the moment. Working with its flagship member in the state, the Uyo Book Club, NBRP has encouraged the emergence of the Raffia City Book Club in the neighbouring city of Ikot Ekpene. This came on the heels of the city of Uyo emerging on April 23, 2021 as Nigeria’s first National Book Clubs City. An initiative of the Network, the concept of the National Book Clubs City inscribes that the designated host city follows in the pattern of the UNESCO World Book Capital City to popularise reading within its city and environs. The 2022 Natioal Book Clubs City would be chosen at the First National Conference and Annual General Meeting of NBRP that holds in Uyo from Septermber 17-19, 2021.
Our third testimony comes with a tinge of history. For anyone with a keen sense of the story of the making of Africa’s most populous nation, the records document that the formal modern process may have begun with the decision of the British to proclaim the Colony of Lagos in 1861. Eight years later, the Christian Missionary Society facilitated the emergence of the colony’s first bookshop, today’s CSS Bookshops Limited. Underscoring the fact that the current book clubs resurgence movement in the country is poised to draw upon deep waters, CSS Bookshops Limited has set up a CSS Bookshops Book Club and it is thriving.
Indeed, the just ended Book Fair provided NBRP with variable opportunity to explain its undertaking in the area of encouraging the establishment of more and more book clubs across Nigeria as well as reach out to stakeholders in the book trade in Nigeria and urge them to dutifully support the process. And it is cheering that almost to a man, the feedback was indeed most encouraging.
Nigerian Publishers Association President, Uchenna Anioke, who himself is the founder of Pens and Voices Book Club, said we were ‘literally preaching to the converted!’ He promised to do everything to support the initiative and on a personal note, Pens and Voices Book Club is already a signed up NBRP member.
The Booksellers Association of Nigeria President, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi also had solid evidence of his willingness and determination to also gladly serve as an eminent NBRP ambassador. As MD/CEO of CSS Bookshops Limited, he has been the institutional pillar behind the emergence of the CSS Bookshops Book Club. And they are also a signed up member of the Network.
An equally encouraging input came from immediate past Association of Nigeria Authors President, Denja Abdullahi who tasked the Network to equally draw upon the annual Yusuf Alli-endowed reading promotions initiative of the writers body.
And then ‘the icing on the cake’ came from the Chairman of the Nigerian Book Fair Trust Council, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo, who not only affirmed his firm commitment to supporting the initiative by making several valuable suggestions and promising to work with NBRP in personally establishing a book club in his own local government, he equally urged that the campaign should in the process of time also be reformatted to even go beyond the local government level area. ‘Why can’t we have a book club in every ward?’
From Bookshops to Libraries and on to schools and communities, book clubs are springing up all over the country to build on the pioneering initiatives of earlier forays by the likes of the Onibonoje Book Club, the National Library of Nigeria, the Niger Wives Association, the Reading Association of Nigeria and the Network for the Promotion of Reading in Nigeria. And we are inclined to agree with the Book Fair Trust Chairman: why does your local government area not have a book club? And going further, your ward! Indeed, why not?
Richard Mammah is President of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria
In Pix: Dare Oluwatuyi, President, Booksellers Association of Nigeria; Funmi Ilori, Founder, iRead Mobile Library; Richard Mammah, President, Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria and Gbadega Adedapo, Chairman, Nigerian Book Fair Trust at the Nigerian International Bookfair in Lagos, Thursday