Reading was reborn here (By: Said Mohamed Dahir)

One day a small classroom was hosting forty students. It was so hot. There ware no fans and no good windows. Under the same roof, we were alone – only the students and me crossed each other.

We were bored by the course and the weather. We wanted to explore a little bit different talk that is attractive to students. Like this moment I used to discuss things students did not know about. It was reading. For them reading was for exams.

We talked about world and how one can explore it. We said many times, “books are good ways to explore the world”. This day, they asked me about books. It gave me the indication they somehow bought my ideas about reading. I talked about what I read and they loved. I asked them if they read a book by the name “Things fall apart”. One student told me that he never read a book. Others said, “We read the first pages”. I asked them if they read books in Somali. Most of them said, “No”. It was not shocking, to me at least. Books were not a familiar territory. In our part of the world, we all struggled with reading.

Continuing my talk about reading I enlightened the possibility of reading something on a kindle, which was a recent habit many picked at the time. One student raised her hand and said with great enthusiasm, “I wish if I could see this thing you call kindle”. I was compelled to explain what Kindle was in detail and how they can obtain it. This was like discussing a miraculous thing like the first day you heard about Internet. It made them astounded. It was then the end of my session.

Ever since, reading remained an interesting topic among us.

Two semesters or more had gone. Several students from the same lot had kindles and books. Students, who never read any thing other than school materials for exams, now read novels, articles, etc. They shared their views about books whenever we went outside the class. One student, one day, told me that Hargeisa Book Fair helped him a lot. “I learnt from there, their books and people”, he added. That was something to note. It was, to me, a step forward. I really felt something was about to change. And it changed.

The unique style and events of the Book Fair, the ever increasing universities, and reading platforms in all across the country filled the void left by the lack of libraries and the poor culture of reading.

It has changed and possibly for good. It promoted books with an incredible pace. Though I was not personally one of those who were actively involved in the book fair activities I followed their events from a far. I read about it. I heard all the “for” and “against” gossips towards the Book Fair. I knew every bit of information that an outsider could get.

In a matter of a few years, the event was growing in terms of fame, reach and the impact. It attracted the attention of the local and international figures. And more importantly, it made sense for the youth of a nation that the book was seen as an alien. The event mediated between the Somaliland youth and the books they once distanced as undecipherable saying “madmaboodow alla ku yaqaan”.

Read below other articles by Said Mohamed Dahir: 

Hargeisa International Book Fair comes again!

Dareennada Dahsoon!

Waayo’arag wax weyddii!