Friday, August 31, 2007

BTT: Statistics (August 30, 2007)

This week's question

There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?

To begin, I would like to share this piece of write-up, a comment made by our Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat, found in The Star newspaper dated 15 March 2007: Reading culture in Malaysia still at its infancy compared with other developed nations like the United States and Japan where they take the opportunity to read whenever they can such as when in trains, he said. "However, the reading habit of Malaysians has improved a little from reading two pages per year in the last decade to two books per year now," he added. Click here to read the complete write-up.

In another comment earlier in January 2007, Culture, Arts and Heritage Deputy Minister Datuk Wong Kam Hoong said: According to a survey, Malaysians only read an average of five books last year. Click here for the complete news.

At first, I was astonished by these statements. I know there are genuine cases of non-readers in this country who could not be bothered with reading, but I also know there are a lot of people, especially children, who loves to read but can't because of financial constraint. In Malaysia, books are not cheap and is certainly out of reach for a lot of families, especially large ones. I know because books were once out of reach for me too. Which possibly explains my insatiable appetite to book buying because now I'm earning a good income and can afford them. The libraries here are also not well stocked. I do believe that if books are affordable, more people will read. Same goes with the libraries.

The Star reader, M G Vijayan from Sri Kembangan, Selangor expressed his views on the affordability and accessibility of books. "I refer to an article in one of the local newspapers on Nov 1, 2006 on the downtrend in the book retailing business in Malaysia. It is sad to see that Malaysians do not invest much in books and cultivate a healthy reading habit." Read more...

Now back to my friends and family. While they are not avid readers, they do read and not fall into that category of not reading a single book in a year. They are just not as 'crazy' as I am.

Take my mom, for example. When she was young, she read lots of Chinese novels, but when she got married and have children (6 of us!), her focus switched to us. Since our dad left us more than 12 years ago, she spent all her energy ensuring that we are properly clothed, fed and whatnot. So gone were her girl days when she can actually sit down and enjoy her books. Having said, she does have a mounting pile of recipe books now (she buys lots of them!). LOL.

Depending on the situation they're in, my siblings (I'm the eldest) do read but like I said, maybe not as much as I do. My sister Vivian who is two years younger than moi loves chick-lits and I think John loves that genre too. Rose likes thriller and horror stories while Catherine reads inspirational and Christian books. My youngest brother Michael seems to be in love with his computer games, so he doesn't give books a second glance. Sad.

I would also like to share this article by Cherry Pua-Africa entitled A Library of my own. It is about instilling the reading habit in children as well as giving them a sense of pride in their book collection by starting a home library. I know I've enjoyed reading it even though I don't have any kids. It says, If you want children to read, you have to start by creating the right environment for them. How true!

Updates @ 2.07 PM: Melody commented about the role of schools in encouraging children to read and that reminded me of an article I clipped sometime in May 2007. It's a unique and engaging write-up by the University Teknologi Malaysia lecturer Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin. As the title suggests, it talks about building better libraries particularly in schools. Read the online version here.

Happy BTT, everyone!

Book Quote:

"It is chiefly through books that we enjoy the intercourse with superior minds... In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most previous thought, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books."

— William Ellery Channing