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With an increasing number of Chinese people, especially youngsters, getting addicted to watching short video clips on their smartphones, reading seems to have become a dying hobby. Books are not only the most powerful source of knowledge, they also open people's minds to new, innovative ideas and give flight to their imagination. How can more people be encouraged to read books?Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily. Excerpts follow:
Create atmosphere to promote reading
In a broader sense, newspapers, magazines, even online articles offer reading materials. But more strictly speaking, reading means reading books. And since reading books seems to be going out of fashion, it has raised people's concerns.
The annual national reading survey shows people's reading habits have barely changed over the past several years. The survey says about 59 percent of the adults in China read books, with one adult, on average, reading 4-5 books a year. This means a large number of people don't read, and those who do so read only a few books a year.
An equally worrying fact is that even students, teenagers in particular, seem to be avoiding books as they spend more time and energy swiping through videos.
There are many reasons why fewer people today read books. To begin with, given the fast-changing social atmosphere, many people today tend to spend time on hobbies other than reading. In addition, many senior family members have become indifferent to reading, thereby failing to inculcate the love for books among their children and grandchildren. So senior family members, parents in particular, should create an atmosphere that would prompt their children to read books.
The lack of public libraries, too, might be responsible for the falling number of readers. For example, China has less than 3,300 public libraries, compared with more than 160,000 in the United States. And unlike countries such as the US and Britain which promote reading among communities, China lacks a well-established public service system to provide books for readers.
There is an inherent link between reading books and national development. The more the people read, the better they can propel China's reform and development.
Individual reading, even if scattered, can help strengthen Chinese values and culture. Therefore, to encourage more people to read books, newspapers and magazines, governments at all levels should improve the existing public libraries, especially in rural areas, and set up community bookstores.
The governments should also create diversified digital and public welfare platforms for readers and hold promotional activities, especially in the western region, to popularize reading.
And publishing houses should focus on printing books that are good both in content and production value to attract more people to books.
Wei Yushan, director of Chinese Academy of Press and Publication
Fragmented knowledge prevents development
That reading habits have changed can be gauged from the amount of time young people spend swiping through short videos on their smartphones. Perhaps they do so because they are accustomed to the habit since childhood.
Some people claim the short videos contain a lot of information, and are easier to browse through. But, compared with books, the short videos have fragmented and incoherent contents, which could affect people's understanding of a subject. At best, they can be called "fast-food reading".
There is a need, therefore, to find novel, attractive ways to guide the younger generation toward books, so they can discover the charm of reading.
Reading articles and short posts on smartphone screens could mean that people today are exposed to more reading materials than before. But since the contents are fragmented and inconsistent, such people may not be able to gather adequate knowledge on any one subject.
Reading plays an important role in integrating knowledge and achievement, and influences social development. But fragmented knowledge could prevent us from thinking logically or acting in a pragmatic manner.
A country's true development is measured in terms of its philosophical, scientific and technological development. Cultural development, too, plays a role in a country's overall development. But without the help of books, people cannot take these developments forward.
In order to encourage people to read more books, the government should take measures to educate the public about the advantages of serious reading, and Chinese publishers should learn from the experiences of their foreign counterparts to publish books that not only have rich contents but also can attract more readers. Publishers should also set up foundations that can recommend valuable books, especially for students.
Moreover, government departments could set some special days for theme-based reading in order to encourage more people to read books.
Li Yan, deputy general manager of China Publishing and Media Holdings Co Ltd