Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim (left), in partnership with the Education Ministry and the National Library, has decided that this year’s reading campaign will last five years instead of the usual one month:
The campaign’s theme is Bangsa Membaca, Bangsa Berjaya (a nation that reads is a nation that succeeds).So how do you get people to read more? Dr. Rais admits that books have to be made more affordable and promises to investigate duty issues and ways of reducing local printing costs.
“A month is hardly enough time for a reading campaign to get started. It’s too short a time to see any progress and there is also no time for the public to participate in activities,” says Dr Rais.
He adds that the campaign will last throughout the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) and that RM40mil to RM50mil has been allocated for the entire campaign, which works out to RM10mil a year.
“We will target everyone regardless of age and make the campaign a platform for public participation. Reading of all kinds of material will be encouraged – novels, non-fiction works, magazines, newspapers – in any language. It is all equally beneficial.”
He also acknowledges too the role that must be played by public libraries but laments that many are not well stocked (though I am pretty sure this is an area the government will be targetting). But there are some problems you can't throw money at: librarians need to play an active role in encouraging communities to read, but Rais suspects (most probably quite rightly) that they themselves do not read and therefore are not equipped to do a good job.
(Daphne's chat with National Library’s Director-General, Dr Haji Wan Ali Wan Mamat is ... erm ... revealing.)
Daphne highlights some very effective reading campaigns for children in other parts of the world from which we can surely draw important lessons and interviews Margaret Hamilton director of the Children's Book Council of Australia about the excellent work carried out by the organisation.
..it takes much more than book fairs, theme songs and bright ideas to get children readingsays Daphne. Now if she were spearheading this campaign ...