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On books and reading. Who let the bookworms out?


I’VE COMMENTED BEFORE on reading in Papua New Guinea and I’d like to do so again because I think it is such an underrated activity.

For most Papua New Guineans, reading is a hard, laborious and boring activity.

We’d rather chew our betelnut and carry on with mindless chatter with our equally narrow-minded peers, or watch a movie that stimulates none of the imaginative and creative power of the brain, or allow desperate songwriters to shape our thinking by listening to their garbage.

Reading is just not a PNG thing.

And perhaps, in our access to social network and blogging, we have worked ourselves into a false sense of security—that reading short comments and blogs is sufficient reading—besides, this way we can challenge the author right? And feel good about ourselves!

The few times I see my fellow PNGeans reading a book, be it on the bus commuting or at a park or wherever, it thrills me. It’s thrilling because it’s such a rare sight.

One day while sitting and waiting for an appointment outside our Revenue Haus, I was reading a Robert Ludlum novel. An expatriate stopped, checked out the title of my book and asked me where I got it. After I told him he simply said: “It’s rare to see PNGeans reading...”

Things like Facebook and blogs and the newspapers are huge hits with our people. I daresay we delight in reading junk (or snippets of junk).

We seem to have such a short attention span that we can tolerate newspaper articles, blogs and feedback comments...but great books by great authors are not at all in our scope of interest.

It’s even occurred to me that while most PNGeans like to posses knowledge, we hate learning. Have you ever wondered how odd it was for flunking Uni students to go riot over the grading system?

That was in my time and I’m still embarrassed because I didn’t think we deserved any grade higher than what we got. We didn’t like learning but we wanted the As.

And if our lecturers didn’t give an A we tried to squeeze it out of them by threatening to burn a few cars. Come on PNG, let’s change and create a true culture of reading and learning.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a lot more of our countrymen read. This is why I truly appreciate great organisations whose mission is to make as many books accessible to as many people as possible. But we can all play our part in creating a new culture of reading.

At home I’ve started a book-club with my hauslain. Everyone was given a task to read a book and give a review at our weekly book review night. The other evening we had our first session. My brothers and cousins – ranging from primary school to working or Uni - all gave reviews on their books followed by some comments and questions.

It’s a way of getting us out of the trivial and generally unhelpful activities such as watching movies, playing computer games etc and getting into more positive activities.

This is a simple way to bring change to our nation. We start with the ones at home; start by helping them broaden their worldview, enlarge their brain power as well as their vocabulary.

Simple things like this can make a huge difference in the lives of people who are within our immediate sphere of influence. Please consider this an option for your household.

Reading short comments on feedback and blogs may be helpful but reading books is priceless if you really want to gain real wisdom and knowledge.

I implore you all to read further than this. Even though I’d love for you to read my blog-posts and comments and emails, and “like” them and “share” or “forward” them, it would do you and this nation much better if you now decide to pick up a good book and dive into it.

Like Abigail Adams says: “Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardour [zeal, passion, intention]”


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Ganjiki D Wayne

Fiona - Look around you for those who do know how to read. Are they reading?

Fiona Hukula

'For most Papua New Guineans, reading is a hard, laborious and boring activity'. How can most Papua New Guineans find reading boring and laborious when most Papua New Guineas do no have access to books?

It is very short sighted to make such generalisations as most Papua New Guineas live in rural areas where schools have the most basic infrastructure, no libraries, limited reading material and no second hand book shops from which they can buy books to read.

I have been to a good number of rural areas in PNG where the only reading material people have access to is the bible and outdated copies of the daily papers.

Ganjiki Wayne

Yes books are scarce but then our second hand shops are providing cheap books for anyone who is really willing to read.

Aarlie J Hull

I am in the Highlands and it is my observation that
books are not available for reading.

The schools, in the lower levels especially, are woefully lacking in basic readers, let alone simple chapter books.

Once you begin reading interesting or captivating stories at whatever level, you are hooked. But if there are no books to read, how do you even know the joy of reading.

Also, the urban educated are not a true picture of who PNG people really are.

Ganjiki Wayne

Thanks Leonard and all...

We can all do our part in helping ourselves and our nation become better people by reading ... there are no shortcuts.

We have to do the hard yards in good books to have better mindsets and hence better Papua New Guinean attitudes.


While the internet may provide us with googles of information (and ever abundant opinions) at the click of a button, it can't help us very much to develop more in depth reasoning.

Sitting down to read a book enables one to train in that ol' skool method that helped to solve a lot of problems (back in the day, ah?): sustained focused contemplation.

Martyn Namorong

"We’d rather chew our betelnut and carry on with mindless chatter with our equally narrow-minded peers, or watch a movie that stimulates none of the imaginative and creative power of the brain, or allow desperate songwriters to shape our thinking by listening to their garbage."

Yay! That paragraph refers to me. I'm so proud and, well, I haven't read a book in a loooong while. These days I just Google stuff instead of looking for a library.

New media such as the internet and particularly the mobile web present new opportunities for connecting with a younger audience


I've always taken reading for granted: to me it's as natural as breathing. But I can see how others would find it difficult to develop an appreciation of the written word.

The problem is making reading a part of your daily life, from sunrise to late into the night. And even more difficult is trying to encourage your children to take up reading - think about the log in your eye - do it yourself.

I used to babysit my niece for hours with a book or a newspaper in my lap. Whenever she waddled over to visit me, I'd either be at my desk studying (while unemployed mind you), curled up in bed reading or struggling with my guitar chord book (for seducing the babes, eh laka?!).

Reading is now second nature for my niece. She took an interest in the activity that seemed to have much of my attention, which she wanted a piece of. She wanted to find out what it was like, do what I was doing too. Kids stuff!

We had lots of other fun too, playing, drawing, counting my coin collection and general yahoo-ing around the house. But it was those quite 'study' moments that she wanted to be part of and we shared those too.

I enjoyed reading us both to sleep and still do so, on visits, because she lives fahfahlaway now. Good memories. Good learning.

Try it.

Gelab Piak

I read a lot a of books when a was a kid and today I find it very helpful and a blessing.

My Grade 6 teacher built a small library in the classroom and introdued us to books. The first book I read was Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love, 336 pages long and I read it in Grade 6. Took me a whole year.

I can read better and write better because I learnt English at a young age. That's why I stress the need for more PNG writers. (However, my spoken Pidgin is not that fluent as a result).

In my home, mum and dad always speak English. Well actually Kiunga is an English speaking town in PNG, I think the only one.

Reading needs to be encouraged to the younger generation, but the problem is how to inspire them.

A solution is to produce or help young writers publish. This will create interest among children to read and also be writer.

PNG writers can be role models for the future generation. Come on, let's be remembered in the future as the generation that made it happen, not the one that broke or spoiled it.

Gelab Piak

I believe PNG writers, especially we the young ones with no funds, need some kind of government asssistance or some kind of finacial assiatance to publish our books.

We can encourage reading but our people are never interested because the books are written by outsiders. Even books about PNG are written by whites, thus our people don't have a feeling of owership.

I would read what my brother writes even if I don't know what it means, then I would praise him for his achievement -that is how I see us PNGeans reacting to articles or even thesis papers by fellow students.

We need new PNG authors to come up with world-class stories that grab the attention of the reader, and inspires the PNG children to read.

How can we creat a writing industry? I gave my book to Moore Printing, but they don't print books. DWU Press does, but it would cost K24,000. So yeah, it's very hard to be a writer in PNG.

Better ditch your dream of being a PNG writer and get a real job (sorry Russell Soaba). My lecturers have told me so.

They say you can publish but it's the financial constraint that pulls me down. I'll tell you this: through literature, a people PNGeans) will understand the struggels and times their nation is going through.

We missed out on that, so everyone is now blind and bumping on everything, thus all the social ills rise.

Literature opens people's eyes in different ways, and they develop a understanding, love and patriotism for their countries.

Read American literature, American Revolution literature, and war poets and you'll understand.

What interesting thing is there that our people can read. Nothing good. Nothing from PNG writers to inspire them to be like the authors and write more books, so more people read and thus we educate ourselves and reduce the illiteracy rate. Nothing.

Sponsor PNG writers and we will a change. The wind of change shall blow over this land.

Leonard Roka

Wayne - You just written about a problem so serious across PNG. It is a culture that will never achieve any positive betterment for itself - either to live a meaningful life nor nor any good for PNG as a whole.

Facebook, as you mentioned, is said to be a social network, but I often look at things posted by many fellow PNGeans and ask is it socialising for the bad or good?

For if we weigh much of the PNG stuff, the 'useless' outweights the 'good'.

Through PNG Attitude, my book reading, daily news items and observation, I am struggling to be a better writer of English. This is not possible through movies, music and abuse of cyberspace.

Tingting tasol.

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