PETALING JAYA: The number of e-books borrowed per month by Malaysians during the movement control order (MCO) period rose fourfold.
Although the country does not have a reputation for its leisure reading culture, the spike signalled a good start in sparking an interest in reading among Malaysians.
A National Library Malaysia spokesman said that the monthly number of e-books that were borrowed peaked in April at 61,494.
“Before the MCO period, the average monthly number of books borrowed was between 13,000 and 14,000.
“The statistics on e-books showed a noticeable increase during the MCO, which was between 186% and 347%, ” the spokesman said.
A total of 160,966 e-books were borrowed from March to May this year, the spokesman added.
The spokesman said the most borrowed genres were business and children’s fiction.
Based on a Unesco report in 2016, out of 85% of the Malaysian population, only 3% read books regularly.
Membership at u-Pustaka, which is the virtual network of the library, increased from 2,544 members in February to a whopping 22,584 members in March.
“It was found that most of the new memberships consisted mainly of adults (85%), followed by teenagers (9%) and children (6%), ” the spokesman said.
Although membership applications dropped in April and May, many Malaysians were still accessing the library’s materials in those months, added the spokesperson.
While reading enthusiasts and educationists hail the encouraging trend, they also hope that the love for reading would be a lifelong one.
Reading Bus Club founder Cheli Nadarajah said he noticed many of his students and friends did a lot of reading during the MCO period.
“Reading has to be made fun, and leisure reading must be encouraged.
“Some schools do not teach proper reading processes, thus making reading a cumbersome activity.
“Reading must begin very early in life, where children are given the opportunity to be engaged with phonological awareness activities – they need to see the shapes of words and hear their sounds, ” he said.
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said the growing interest in reading augurs well for the country, especially as Kuala Lumpur was declared the World Book Capital 2020 by Unesco.
“I am confident that with the interest implanted during the MCO period, the joy of reading has been rekindled, ” he said.
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