Senator Shehu Sani and other stakeholders in the book and publishing industry have raised concerns about the detrimental effects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and social media on children. The warning came during the flag-off of the 43rd National Library of Nigeria (NLN) Reading Campaign, which aims to promote reading and literacy among Nigerians.
Senator Sani, honored at the event for his contributions to education and learning in Nigeria, acknowledged the positive aspects of social media and smart gadgets. However, he emphasized that these platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and AI, have given rise to a new generation characterized by intellectual laziness, leading to the decline of reading culture in Nigeria.
The lawmaker reminisced about the 60s to early 80s when renowned writers such as Chinua Achebe, Prof Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, and Ola Rotimi emerged. During that period, reading was a priority, and students challenged themselves to read numerous books. Senator Sani expressed concern that the decline in intellectual discourse among young people today correlates with their excessive use of social media. He urged all Nigerians to prioritize reading and insisted that parents encourage their children to cultivate the habit.
Prof Chinwe Anunobi, CEO of the National Library, echoed Senator Sani’s warnings about the negative impact of social media. She mentioned that the library has yet to establish a functioning virtual/electronic library due to financial constraints. Anunobi clarified the distinction between a digital library, which the NLN currently operates, and a virtual library. While the NLN provides Nigerian publications digitally, access to other resources requires paid subscriptions.
The chief librarian acknowledged the distractions posed by virtual formats, noting that reading from phones or tablets often leads to constant interruptions by platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Anunobi emphasized the importance of printed books and cited the example of prominent individuals like Barack Obama, who continue to purchase and read physical books. She urged parents to limit their children’s social media usage and instead focus on gifting them books as rewards for hard work and special occasions. Anunobi also proposed the reinstatement of library hours in schools, allowing children dedicated time to visit the library and read.
During the event, Mr. Lanre Adesuyi, founder of Havillah Publishing, pledged a donation worth N50 million in books to support the NLN’s reading campaign. The chief librarian expressed gratitude for the generous donation, which will facilitate access to books and promote reading among students and Nigerians living in remote areas.
Under Anunobi’s administration, the NLN expanded its reading campaign to the hinterlands, distributing books, writing materials, and reading tablets to schools and vulnerable groups across the country’s 36 local government areas. Additionally, volunteers have been engaged to educate rural communities on the importance of reading. The library has impacted over 4,000 people, including secondary school students in 102 schools and adult learners. It has also provided reading materials to 16 out of 46 primary, secondary, and higher institutions that requested support.
The NLN and Havillah Publishing will collaborate to ensure that the donated books align with Nigerian-based content and cater to the age range of the children. Anunobi emphasized that the value of N50 million, considering the cost of books, should not be underestimated.
In conclusion, Senator Shehu Sani and stakeholders in the book and publishing industry have highlighted the negative impact of AI and social media on children’s reading culture. The NLN’s Reading Campaign aims to promote reading and literacy across Nigeria, while urging parents to restrict social media usage and encourage their children to embrace the habit of reading.