Education is considered to have a strong correlation with social and economic development. According to Usoro and Usanga (2007), "education plays an important role in the well-being of any nation that wants to sustain it's prominence in the global scene. Education not only liberates; it is a vital tool for empowerment that allows meaningful contributions to society".
Every nation has a policy on education that provides guidance on the type and quality of education that its citizens should acquire in order to function as a productive citizen. The bedrock of any educational system is the basic educational level. It is thus essential that high quality basic education for all, from a child's youngest days forward must be a paramount concern to the society.
Reading is the gateway to education and it must be reiterated that a child's ability to read and read well can make an enormous difference to both his/her school performance, career potential and personal success. It has been recognized as an important discipline and a child's ability to read is the centre of the educational process. Lawal (1995) has opined that "if a learner possesses poor reading habits, he suffers serious handicaps not only in school but also later in the world of work. This is even true when one considers the fact that education is now learner centered with the more effective techniques placing a far greater emphasis on the learner's ability to read".
Holloway (1999) as cited in Kirsch et al. (2002) has asserted that "reading skills are essential to the achievement of lower and upper secondary students but after seven or eight years of elementary education, many students will lack sufficient proficiency as readers, and many adolescents continue to perform at an unacceptable levels". On the other hand, a research study conducted by the International Reading Association (Moore et al, 1999) that has been cited in Clark and Rumbold (2006), states that:
"Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st Century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives. They will need literacy to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. They will need literacy to feed their imaginations so they can create the world of the future. In a complex and sometimes even dangerous world, their ability to read can be crucial".
Bearing this in mind, many educators have recognize that one of the main purpose of education in all countries is to ensure that students acquire the necessary skills to be able to read with understanding so that they can cope in the changing world of the technological age. The importance of reading cannot be underestimated, because it could be considered as a window to the outside world and a prerequisite for success in life. The universal importance of reading was highlighted when UNESCO declared 1990 as the "International Year of Literacy", reading skills are fundamental to everyday activities as well as necessary for personal intellectual growth.
Research by Khan (2003), as quoted by Kanade and Chudamani (2006), suggests that the "reading of books broadens the reader's outlook. It enriches the mind and makes the reader an enlightened person. An enlightened person with a sharp mental ability can solve many problems in the neighbourhood, and can foster the human relationships between persons of differing backgrounds, and can move toward an advanced society". In the words of Darko-Ampem (2005), as cited in Tella and Akande (2007), books impart knowledge to the reader, draw out and foster qualities such as imagination and self-understanding, and contribute to the child's mental growth by stimulating the senses of touch, sight and hearing, the three channels by which people learn. It is clear that "books are indispensable tools for building the human resources needed for the scientific, technical, political and socio-economic development of a nation" (Charkin, 1993).
The improvement of children's reading remains one of the most important challenges for contemporary educators. As compared to children a couple of decades back, the young generation now has access to a wide variety of leisure activities. There is an intense competition at the moment between books and recent innovative, attractive and engaging gadgets, like TV, Computer and Video games and the Internet that are capturing the time and attention of children and students, making them lose interest in reading for pleasure. The time our children and students will use to read their books, learn and do the assignments given to them in school is used in Internet Cafes, watching TV, films and playing video and computer games all at the detriment of recreational reading (Majid and Tan, 2007).
It is clear from the foregoing discussions that the ability to read is essential for successful communication, as it is required to solve practical problems of daily life, it is necessary for the growth and well-being of an individual in order for him/her to comprehend road signs, warning labels, telephone books, newspapers, books and so on (Colberg and Snart, 1992). Therefore, it is the view of this researcher that high school students who constitute an important component of the basic educational system in Ghana must be encouraged and motivated to read for pleasure, since the reading for pleasure habit offers numerous benefits and "positively related to better academic achievement".
In a world in which the television has taken over the lives of many children, it is our duty to tell children the importance of written word. In the end, children should be able to read books for both information and enjoyment. The enthusiasm, interest, and love for books should be built up in children from tender ages. When children are able to read they can learn just about anything they want to know and that the doors of the world would be opened to people who can read. Creating a love of reading in students is potentially one of the powerful ways of improving academic standards in the basic education set up.
The education of the child is vital for the existence of the society as it is the child that would grow into adulthood for society's very survival and continuity. Since a child's ability to read is the centre of the educational process, the researcher chose the Saint Andrew's Anglican Complex Junior High School, which is, situated at Sekondi directly behind the Saint Andrew the Apostle Cathedral to investigate the prospects of promoting reading for pleasure among junior high students.
Statement of the problem
The research problem for this study is focused on the need to seek an understanding on the importance and value of reading for pleasure in the daily life of students in the basic educational system. Knowing this will help the researcher to take necessary measures for promoting reading for pleasure among children. In most parts of Africa, including Ghana reading is perceived as an academic exercise and a means to pass examinations. According to Majid and Tan (2007) there is an "overemphasis on study-related reading thus ignoring the recreational or free voluntary reading. With increasing pressure on children to perform well academically, it is not surprising that children often associate books and reading with learning, schoolwork, school projects and passing examinations"
Perhaps the most difficult task or challenge that faces educators today is the ability to employ a variety of strategies based approach to enable them teach learners to inculcate the attitude of reading for pleasure, in order to reverse the abysmally low students' scores in English Language at both the Junior and Senior High School examinations. Clearly, this is not an easy task, due to the pressure from educators and parents on students to learn more from school text to enable them perform better in both School and external examinations, leading to high academic standards being set for them.
This is the exact situation that prevails at Saint Andrew's Anglican Complex Junior High School, which is situated at Sekondi. The students seldom read as a hobby, since most of the school day is devoted to the reading of nothing other than the school textbooks and preparation for examinations. The sad reality is that, in spite of the encouragement from the teachers to students to make some time to read for pleasure, the habit of library visits and pleasure reading was not encouraging in the school. The students would not...