In a world where selfish pursuits outshine unconditional efforts and greed, narcissism and self-centric attitudes become the mottos of a social order based on cut-throat competition and hierarchy, an effort for the underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society becomes a rarity that ought to be spoken about and celebrated.
In a very positive and important move, international English soccer player Marcus Rashford has announced his plans to start a book club for underprivileged children who don’t have access to learning resources. The footballer and his team have plans of distributing books to children from the underprivileged backgrounds and thereby promoting the culture and love for reading.
The efforts thought about and planned by this soccer player of international fame are important not only because they will make it possible for children of marginalised backgrounds to have access to books especially at a time when schools across the world have been facing a prolonged closure owning to the pandemic and children have been cut off from all regular academic activities but also because his actions will continue to inspire many more privileged individuals to reach out to people in need.
We already have ample research to suggest that reading is extremely beneficial in cultivating one’s power of thinking and creative imagination while it of course also helps immensely in polishing one’s academic sensibilities and power of argumentation.
Reading is seen by many as a window that opens the reader’s horizons to an exposure that he/she may otherwise stay deprived from and allows people to find out their inner potential and interests.
But what is extremely sad is the fact that while so much pedagogic importance has been attached to reading for happiness and sheer satisfaction as opposed to reading just for appearing in an exam or for academic acclaim, yet the number of people who like to read for pleasure has been declining steadily and the number of children who read for pleasure has been falling sharply each day.
In fact the National Literacy Mission tells us that less than 26% of young people in India below the age of 18 years read everyday in 2019.
This is extremely low, given the fact that there is ample pedagogic emphasis has been laid and research conducted on the importance of cultivating a taste for books and indulging in reading for non-utilitarian goals. It is true that many children who would otherwise find no time or interest to read anything outside textbooks have begun to come back to non-textbook reading amid the pandemic and prolonged school closure, but on the other hand, there are countless children who have been deprived of all kinds of learning opportunities let alone having access to books to read for happiness and enjoyment. Amid all this, the efforts of famous soccer player Rashford in England will surely bring about a silver lining amid the dark clouds and democratise reading amid the pandemic and take it to underprivileged and marginalised children.
Rashford’s tweets have been ample proof of the fact that he is fond of the habit of reading and finds it “cool” while acknowledging the grim reality that more than 384,000 children and young people mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t have access to books in the United States.
This is reflective of the fact that even to cultivate a love for books, one first has to have access to them and a large section of children in the United Kingdom(comprised largely of children from the underprivileged minorities and ethic groups) don’t have access to such resources and therefore Rashford’s efforts are extremely necessary.
Rashford plans to make access to books easier and democratic for such children and cultivate among them a consciousness which is sensitive and inclusive and help bridge the educational divide in the United Kingdom. We hope that soccer player Rashford’s efforts inspire people in different corners of the world to take up similar efforts for the underprivileged in their own communities.