THIS year heralds the start of our National Reading Decade 2021-2030 programme with the aim of turning Malaysia into a reading nation by 2030. Its long haul target is 25% of active readership among Malaysians. But in the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the National Reading Decade may need to be remodelled and repackaged to encourage reading.
We are told by teachers that reading increases our knowledge and to make better use of our free time. But as it turns out, students read to pass exams and undergraduates to accumulate their cumulative grade point average. Once they graduate, most only read topics related to their profession to increase their expertise.
There are many benefits of reading, such as expanding our experiences, self-improvement or finding role models in life. When we read, we moderate our thoughts and are able to connect with the writer. Reading also feeds curiosity, sparking new ideas, connections and discoveries. A strong reading culture can build a great nation.
The government can incentivise reading materials by offering tax rebates for books and magazines or e-wallet subsidies for e-books. Other possibilities could include; public libraries creating e-catalogues or expanding their collections, lending books by post, and universities opening up their online libraries to the public.
By acknowledging the access gap between rural and urban readers, more community libraries can be set up in smaller towns, neighbourhoods and villages. Used books can be donated for all to benefit from. Even with current challenges, reading cannot stop. Books should not become a privilege. Books are aplenty and the choice is yours but for a start, newspapers are a good option.
CHEAH CHUN FAI
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