20 February 2006

Why do Malaysians read so little?

I'm the eldest in my family and I can still remember my first book my dad bought for me. I was 4 years old and the book was Pinocchio. Since then I got a knack for books - storybooks in particular. So I have to thank my dad for this passion of mine.

I tried to do the same thing for my sisters. They already knew what my gift is for their birthday every year: book, but somehow those books always ended up on the bookshelf, collecting dust. I remembered I bought a SpiderMan novel for my sister since she collect everything spidey at that time. After 4 years, she still haven't finished it and only managed to leafed through 20 pages of that book.

I also encouraged them to read any of my books that available in my small library (a.k.a my room) but unfortunately they were easily intimidated either by the thickness of the book, or by the size of the fonts (too small for their liking), or by the lingo because most of my books are literary and classical. Too complicated they say. So I start buying chic-lit and thriller books in hope to get them 'into' it. I even bought books like Pendragon and Harry Potter and Narnia and Inkheart and Magyk but till today there is hardly any improvement in their reading department.

The same goes to my friends. Some do try but never did finish the book they borrowed. 'I'm too busy' is their main excuse. It is kind of a sad situation for me personally. Whenever I tried to engage and immersed them with a good story, they would either be lost or not interested at all, and I was left with this big hole in my heart since I have no one to share the excitements/fulfillment with. It stinks. Big time!

Statistic shows that readers' in
Malaysia are a minority, and the numbers were staggering.

I was reading silverfish (local publishing company) bookclub when I encountered this statistic. Silverfish kind of blame it on our educational system. I quote: "It is no secret that for almost 50 years it was geared almost entirely towards producing workers to feed the industrial machine. It was alright to think 'out of the box', as long as it was within the 'BOX'. Study hard, pass exams, don't get involved in anything, repeated ad infinitum: a Malaysian parent-government mantra. I guess, now we pay the price."

Why do Malaysians (at least my family and friends) read so little? In my humble opinion, it was because they never give book the chance to enchanted them with their stories. What a shame.

It really does not matter if the book that we pick up is "light material - romances, ghost stories, and such stuff". What matter is, we read and eventually we'll grew out of it. Even if we don't, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.The fact shows that romances and thrillers far outsell literary books all the time.

What can we do to reverse this trend? My members from pitstop : Luke and macintosh, came up with few conclusions:

  • Engage your friend into book discussion even though they don't read much.
  • Encourage them into reading by introducing good books, the type that can excite them.
  • Share your reading passion with your friends.
  • Don't be too quick to say no when someone introduce you to a book.
  • It is your responsibilities to instill the reading trend to those who are around you.

Exactly what I have done the last 10 years. Although I can’t turn anyone into a bookworm (yet), I refuse to let the readers in Malaysia to be a minority. The time has come for us to change the mind set of Malaysian people. I will not stop till I succeed. I rather die trying!



I admire your enthusiasm for trying to get more Malaysians into reading. I believe that the reading "habit" starts at a very young age. I don't remember exactly what got me into reading or why, but I do remember that as far back as four or five years old I always seemed to be reading something.

What's sad, is I was always called things like "nerd" or "geek" because I would rather enjoy a good book instead of running around and playing with the other kids. But I wouldn't change a thing if I had to do it over. I still love to read as an adult, even though I've changed from fiction to non-fiction.

I'm not sure what the current situation with kids is in the US, but I think books like Harry Potter have made reading a bit more "cool". Also the internet requries "reading" even if it's not the same as a book.

I would say since you are now working with young children, you have a great opportunity to start educating them (and their parents) about the joys of reading. I hope you will be able to make an impact on them. It's worth doing.

I am trying to nurtured the kids at my nursery to read. At least Yasmin (1 yrs 2 months old) already know how to picked the book from the bookshelf (and make a mess of the library)! :D

By reading, the mind can venture in a way that no others means can provide.

Reading enables us to enter into the mind of the writers and the characters, letting us to feel the feeling and experience of others.

Through reading, the mind can wander to territories that otherwise are physically limited to human. The journey of mind can be a very stimulating, educational and rewarding experience.

Last time, I studied languages just to pass my exams and practically skipped reading books. Perhaps my English teachers would have motivated me had I shown some interest but I think had I been introduced to the world of reading, my attitude might have been different.

Please introduce those kids under your care to the wonderful world of reading even if they do not seem to show reading inclinations. Let them sail their mind on the sea of the wonderful world of reading.

The kids, has shown some progress. Every tuesday and Thursday we have a 'Read a story' time and this program is open to all kids from the housing estate. The response has been great so far.

I'm doing what I can for the public.

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