Where are the book readers?
National Arts Council survey: Less than half of S'poreans read at least one literary book a year
With the fast-paced lives that Singaporeans live, is there still time for us to read books?
No, a recent Straits Times street poll reveals.
Many people say they are too busy to read or would rather be on their phones.
A recent survey by the National Arts Council showed that less than half of Singaporeans read at least one literary book a year.
On Wednesday and Friday, The New Paper on Sunday spent a total of five hours looking out for book readers.
About 80 per cent of people in the trains were using some sort of mobile device.
The only ones reading were a few workers going through the newspapers and students on their school books. Only one person was reading a novel.
TNPS then headed for the Ang Mo Kio Public Library.
There were students with their laptops and seniors with newspapers and magazines.
Madam Molly, 67, was seated with a pile of recipe books.
She goes to the library once a month to find simple recipes that she can recreate at home.
The retiree says: "Singaporeans, especially children, have no time to read because they have a lot of homework, and they are pressured to go for extra classes like piano lessons."
In a corner of the library, we find an elderly man seated by himself, absorbed in his book.
Ms Janet Thor, 20, was one of the few non-student youngsters in the library.
The Malaysian, here for a month, is an avid reader and started reading since she was young.
"Reading can change a person's mind. By reading, you understand different situations, and if you were to ever fall into one, you would know how to solve it," Ms Thor says.
Getting S'poreans to read
The National Reading Movement kicked off on June 3 in an effort to promote reading in Singapore.
The five-year project aims to get Singaporeans to "Read More, Read Widely, Read Together".
Yesterday was the launch of National Reading Day, a key programme which is part of the five-year initiaitive and will be held on the last Saturday of every July.
It was launched by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the National Library Building.Events ranged from live plays by 2Tango and a cappella performances by the Temasek A Capella Group.
'Closet readers' not always seen
A 2009 study done by Ms Gladys Low of the National Library Board found that more than a third of people ranked reading as their least-preferred leisure activity.
Ms Renee Ting, manager of Books Actually, believes that people read but might not show it.
Ms Ting says: "We believe that there are people who read in Singapore, just that you don't see them. We like to call them 'closet readers'," says Ms Ting.
Books Actually is a local bookstore that has been around for more than 10 years, and it has seen a steady increase in customers till today.
"We have seen the crowd grow steadily by about 10 per cent each year since five years ago," says Ms Ting.
Singapore is also home to many book clubs and reading groups, all of which say that their membership has not fallen over the years.
Bukit Batok East has a book exchange programme, Mezzo, which allows residents to exchange a book for a book.
With an initial membership of just 10 people after it was started in August 2013, it now has 80 members, mostly made up of middle-aged Bukit Batok East residents.
Ms Chan Wai Han, business development manager of publisher Ethos Books believes that there is no such thing as being too busy to read.
"For me, the best reading time is on the toilet or just before bed. We can always find the time," she says with a laugh.