Reading habit 'way behind'
Thais read just 2 books a year, well below their neighbours
Published on October 18, 2007
Thailand's reading habits stack up poorly against neighbours like Vietnam and Singapore. The average Thai reads just two books a year, it was revealed yesterday.
And the average annual amount people spend on books is just Bt260, visitors to the Book Expo at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre learned.
In Vietnam the average is 60 books a year and in Singapore the number is 45, according to survey data. This year's exposition runs until October 28 and has attracted 819 booths and 408 publishers. More than 1.2 million visitors are expected.
Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT) president Risuan Aramcharoen said the association conducted a reading survey in conjunction with the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.
"We prefer listening and watching rather than reading, so we are more interested in television and the radio," she said.
In addition, the Internet, computer games, plus night entertainment also took up a lot of people's leisure time.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who presided over the grand opening of exposition, said people were the most precious resource and the government spent heavily educating them. He agreed with PUBAT that the country needs to instil a reading habit.
"Apart from listening and watching, Thais also love talking," he said light-heartedly.
Schooling was just one facet of education and there were many other activities to be promoted, he said.
The government would support the production of books and education materials to increase people's knowledge, he added.
On the brighter side, Risuan said the Book Expo was well received and the number of booths had increased from 300 to 408 this year. The publishing business has grown by 10 per cent between 2003 and 2006, despite the fact just 934 new titles are released each month - 10 times less than developed countries. Taiwan, for example, sees nearly 10,000 new titles a month.
Risuan called on the government to encourage more people to read and for more practical books to be published. One of PUBAT's main activities this year is a campaign to get reading on the national agenda, because it is closely linked with educational progress and would certainly benefit the economy.
The PUBAT and 32 other organisations have appealed to Deputy Prime Minister Paiboon Wattanasiritham since July to promote reading as part of the national agenda.
Visitors to the Book Expo who agree with the association's agenda can fill in a prepared form at PUBAT's booths. These ask the government to improve existing libraries and build new ones and research weaknesses in reading habits - to help publishers issue books people want and need.
Thanong Chotisorayuth, managing director of Se-Education Plc, spoke in a seminar at the Expo entitled "Why should we push reading as a national agenda?" He demonstrated the relationship between the academic excellence of countries like China, Korea, and Vietnam and their good record of reading.
"Korea has one library for every 20,000 people while Thailand has only one per 84,000. No wonder why Korea has been progressed economically and academically. The country ranks fourth in overall prizes from academic Olympic competitions," he said.
"The urgent task is to instil the reading habit into someone who hardly reads. When a person loves reading from a young age , he/she will be an enthusiastic reader until they grow old," Thanong said.
Risuan, speaking at the seminar, agreed and said reading habits could help indicate national growth. But it seemed a tough task that needed effort by both the private sector and government.
Participants, however, voiced concern it would not be practical to wait for the government to jump on the bandwagon, so the private sector had better act fast before Thailand lags in terms of educational progress.
Supinda Na Mahachai,