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Reading is very vital to the progress and development of human life. Its importance in the development of children and adolescents cannot be over emphasized. This work therefore, examines the role of public library and ICT in promoting reading among the students of English Language in Abakaliki Education Zone. To understand the current situation of the reading culture of students, I embarked on the research through questionnaire method of data collection. A simple random sampling technique was adopted, and a sample of three hundred (300) respondents was used for the study. The objective is to investigate the effect of public library and new technologies development on the reading habits of the students. The students’ interest in reading as well as reading conditions at home and school are also surveyed. The new technologies (ICT) do not only influence the students’ learning and reading in the classroom, but also affect their reading behaviour at home. The results of this study reveal that the time the students spend in reading online information surpasses the one spend on paper-based materials. The challenges and implication of poor reading habits were also discussed. This research concludes by admonishing parents, educational stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental agencies to encourage the provision of reading materials and utilization to avoid information famine.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION The Background to the Study

Reading has been, and is still, a powerful means of communication. It forms a part of an individual to the extent that, it becomes a habit which once developed, becomes difficult to break. Reading is a means of obtaining information, entertainment, relaxation, directives or instructions from a written material. It follows logically that a good reading habit is a precursor to a good writing.

Reading therefore, can be defined as a knowledge acquiring process, involving the reader and the text, which is enhanced by the reader’s prior knowledge and experience. According to Ogayl (2005:3), reading is simply the act and process of perceiving and understanding communication, which involves, seeing and recognizing textual demands, such as letters and phrases, combined in sentences and using the previous knowledge of the words and their contexts usage to interpret meaning. On the other hand, Agwu, in Ogayl and Chima (2005) says that, reading involves being able to obtain three types of information.

The information which is clearly stated (factual or literal Information), the information which is not clearly stated, but implied (inferential or interpretive information) and, the information which involves making judgment (critical or evaluative reading). The act of reading could be an interesting practice for the children and the adolescents, if they are properly guided. This is because, a reading habit cultivated early in life, helps the children to grow into independent adults with repertoire of knowledge. However, today, the declining interest of students in reading is quite obvious. Children now grow into adulthood with little/no knowledge of common possible life challenges and solutions.

In Nigeria, there is a general outcry, and a serious one for that matter, over the falling standard in education. Several factors are attributed to this fall, but hardly has the establishment of the public library, and information and communication technologies (ICT) been mentioned. In this age of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) with the proliferation of televisions and video-players, students nowadays, prefer watching movies, playing music, and recently, chatting and surfing on the net, to reading their books. This practice thus culminates in the poor performance of the students in the school. ICT in this way, is fast taking over, the control of the students’ lives, and the (cultivation of a) good reading habit has gone with the wind. No wonder, Shuaibu, (2008) described “Internet” as the greatest challenge that has faced conventional books.

Access to information is crucial to individual advancement, as well as corporate educational development. Information is very important and indispensable, and according to Yusuf, (2007) bridges the gap between knowledge and ignorance. Even though, reading is the foundation upon which other academic skills are built, yet, the concept of reading habit has been relegated to the background. The productive approach to improving vocabulary, word power and the language skills is left unpracticed and unattended. According to Yani, (2003), reading habits of Nigeria are a matter of concern in our educational and national development, stating further that, in a developing country like Nigeria, the concept of reading habits should not be relegated to the background. One can only imagine the inspiration and noble feelings evoked after biographies of great men and women. This is where the public library comes in.

Libraries (public, school, private, etc.) are to serve as a fulcrum of reading and promoting reading habit. The libraries bring together, books, and other formats of literacy materials, and readers under the expert guidance of certified librarian. Library is an organized collection of books and other literacy material (printed and non-printed) used for study, research and recreation.

Public library is therefore, the library that is accessible by the public and is generally funded from the public treasury. The unique role of public library is that, it is fundamental to the development of literacy, which is manifested in a viable reading habit. According to Philip, (2009), the link between libraries and literacy is the reading habit. This is because, once people have developed the reading habit, they are bound to go to libraries looking for books. By using library, they consolidate their reading and further their discovery. So, the public library and ICT are partners in the education of a child.

For the promotion of reading culture in Ebonyi state and Abakaliki education Zone in particular, this research work is centred on giving a due recognition (of roles), emphasis and patronage to the public library and ICT.

Statement of the Problem

The reckless utility of ICT has affected the letter-writing means of communication of the students of English language. The letter- writing means of communication has been either consciously or unconsciously relegated to the background, for the wide occupation of the recent means of communication, called “SMS” message.

The absence of public library is greatly paving way for the extinction of reading among adolescents and students of English language in particular.The fear that the ugly trend (if not reversed) will hamper the reading habit of the students, prompts this research. ICT now, instead of promoting reading habit, (being a facilitator) militates against the promotion, (being a debilitator) among the students.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to determine the general role of public library and ICT and their practical, social and economic consequences on the people and the society. Specifically, the study aims at finding out:

1.   Consequences of poor development of reading habits on the students of English language in Abakaliki Education Zone.

2.   The role of public library in promoting reading among the students in Abakaliki Education Zone.

3.   Determining the challenges of ICT and public libraries in promoting reading among the students of English language.

4.   The remedies to the problems of the public libraries and ICT in promoting reading habit among the students.

Significance of the Study

This study will be significant to the people and students in Abakaliki Education Zone, the Ebonyi state Government, and above all, the federal government of Nigeria. It will encourage the students to patronize public libraries, and cultivate a good reading habit which in turn, will help to address the fallen standard in education in Abakaliki Education Zone, and the country at large.

It will help the people and students to have a rethink and be more conscious on using information and communication technologies (ICT).

To the government and public in general, this will go a long way in restoring the lost standard of formality of (letter writing) communication by teachers in the classroom, and through the printed and non-printed media enlightenment. This way, the society will be furnished and indoctrinated with the idea of maintaining the already existing standard, rather than destroying it.

Scope of the Study

The scope of this study is on the users of the electronic gadgets and (secondary school) students of English language in Abakaliki Education Zone.

Abakaliki Education Zone comprises (the people and students in) Ebonyi, Izzi and Ohaukwu Local Government Areas.

Research Questions

The following research questions were formulated and structured to guide the study:

1.   What are the consequences of poor development of reading habits on students of English in Abakaliki Education Zone?

2.   What are the roles of public library in promoting reading habit among students?

3.   What are the challenges of ICT and public libraries in promoting reading habit among students of Abakaliki Education Zone?

4.   what remedies can be applied in resolving the problem posed by the unavailability of public libraries among the students in Abakaliki Education Zone?