Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Nation That Reads ...

Last November it was announced that the government was about to launch a huge campaign to encourage reading among the young. In today's Starmag Daphne Lee reveals that it was flagged off last week. (Did anyone hear about it?)

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).

“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.”
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.

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. takes much more than book fairs, theme songs and bright ideas to get children reading
says Daphne. Now if she were spearheading this campaign ...


CW said...

Hi Sharon

The link to the interview with the National Library's Director-General doesn't seem to be working. I found it at this link. It was a rather sad interview, I thought - Yg Berhormat Director-General came across as being, at worst, completely uninformed, or at best woefully unprepared for the interview. If he could say how much the roof of the new wing cost, surely he could provide general figures as to the cost of books puchased for the new wing?? As to the role of libraries and librarians, I couldn't agree more - governments need to provide more funds for public libraries - and librarians have a vital role to play!

bibliobibuli said...

the gremlin's fixed now - thanks. and yes, that's the same piece. perhaps the guys was caught on the hop, but he should have these figures at his fingertips, one would have thought.

The Eternal Wanderer said...

Good god...!

The National Library DG ought to be fired from his job! It's so obvious he's got something to hide - he comes across as very evasive with his answers!

He probably doesn't even know anything about books! But ask him about the new roof and he can quote the RM5mil price as if he's proud of it! Come on, why are they getting idiotic people like this to manage books and libraries and organise reading campaigns??

It's no wonder the readership figures has not increased, having people like him managing the libraries. Granted, he's probably only in charge of the maintenance and the running of the place, not the books and reading materials that they have.

Ted Mahsun said...

I now feel inspired to sell ALL my books and get a new roof. Dr Haji Wan Ali Wan Mamat is my hero!

Xeus said...

I admit it was easier when I was a child. Enid Blyton books used to be RM 3.95 a piece. I bought a whole collection. Pretty much filled up a whole library. Even when I was 12, books were still RM 10.

I stopped buying books because I can't find anywhere to stash them. The shelves are full to overflowing! Now I (ahem) rent them instead. I'm a writer's worst nightmare.

But what should I do with my lack-of-space problem? Give away old books?

Anyhow, if book prices were to come down again, I'll bet a lot of people would start collecting them again.

Greenbottle said...

that interview with the DG was hilarious... i wished the interviewer would be a bit more devillish and tweak a few more gems from this high official ...i'm sure he hasn't read all of 3 pages in the last one year himself..

Anonymous said...

I read the article today, too. On the writing campaign kicking off, well the full page ads in the papers have announced the KLCC Convention Centre weekend book reading fair. I hope it went well. In malaysia, the libraries are in rather a sad state. Either they are not well-stocked, or not well-visited. They aren't perceived to be public-friendly. I hope funds will go into travelling libraries to the rural areas as well, and a good scheme worked out so that the kids there can own books instead of borrowing them.

sympozium said...

On Saturday I visited the British Council library for the first time since returning in 2004, which was bad of me as it's just down the road from where I live. Decided to join for 6 months. The selection of books, though small, was quite good. Found Shalimar The Clown, Toibin's The Master, and a biography of Annie Lennox.

Jo said...

Hello Sharon!

That interview with the DG was so bizarre! I've been once to the Natinal Library, found it very difficult to join as a member- had to have photocopies of various documents on my person and exact change, if I recall correctly.. and when I finally got inside, did not find many interesting books at all.

I must admit I too have not been to the British Council library. I will stop by perhaps this week. Hopefully, it will not be too difficult to join.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, this is nothing more but another helping of corruption.

Extreme corruption.

By kicking off this campaign, they are subcontracting all the advertisements, event management, etc to political cronies. More public funds will be wasted. And the results, once more, will be negligible.

Those of you who are well-read will know what I am talking about. Rakan Muda, anyone?

sympozium said...

Joining British Council was a breeze. They'll ask for your IC and RM50 (for 6 months' membership) and a library card is produced for you within minutes.

Anonymous said...


It is well-known that many people in charge of our libraries are actually in collusion with local publishers and receive kickbacks.

Here's a example: head librarian orders 1,000 books from a local publisher. But both agree to alter the invoice to make it appear that they order 10,000 books. They then quietly split the excess money between themselves.

Only 1,000 books are stocked in the library. But on paper, it is 10,000 books.

And who ends up paying for this? Why, we, the taxpayers.

Delightful. Simply delightful.

Anonymous said...

Folks, do not be misled.

The Director-General of the National Library is not uninformed, nor is he unprepared.

He has a profitable sideline in ordering non-existent books.

animah said...

Why don't we all make a personal pledge to increase the reading rate of the population. For example, buy a child we know a book (which we have enjoyed and read) for their birthday, and encourage them to read it. Or approach a school (even a private nursery school will do) and volunteer to read stories to a class periodically. Just small gestures can go a long way in sowing the seeds....

Anonymous said...

Hey animah, I know what I'll do. I'll get a job as a person in charge of a library. Then, according to anonymous, I'll "receive kickbacks". How about that for a win-win situation, you increase the reading rate, and you get really rich at the same time :)