Although we had “readers” in school, these were often simplified versions of novels which we were not allowed to take home.
Once a week, my English teacher would distribute the books and students took turns to read paragraphs aloud. At the end of the class, the teacher collected the books back.
Naturally, we never got through more than one to three pages each week; I do not recall my class ever finishing a book.
Does anyone truly think this exercise anything more than a token effort?
In my primary school, we visited the school library every week. However, my secondary school library was usually locked. I do not think we entered the library more than twice a year!
This failure to encourage reading extends beyond the school system. There are insufficient libraries throughout the country. Ideally, nobody should need to travel more than 30 minutes to get to a good library.
The Perpustakaan Bergerak that we have might be more effective if they were better stocked and their routes well-publicised.
Without convenient and cheap access to a good library, how many books do we expect the less fortunate to buy?
Reading is essential, not only to facilitate mastery of a language but also to provide our nation with critical minds that are pivotal to the development of our nation.
In view of the failure of the authorities to encourage reading, Yap suggests a few self-help measures:
Start a book club. Organise carpools to the state library. Share your book collection with others. Ensure schools fully utilise their libraries. Be proactive for the future of your children, for our nation. Do not just rely on the government. We can all do our bit!