India is a reading nation, but not enough - The New Indian Express

India is a reading nation, but not enough

Published: 04th October 2013 07:45 AM

Last Updated: 04th October 2013 07:45 AM

Yes, India is a reading nation. But not enough. Much has to be done to encourage reading, by  creating more access, inculcating the habit from early age along with harnessing technology and integrating it with the physicality of the medium of books.

This was the refrain of writers, publishers, policy makers and academics at 2nd Odisha Literary Festival that went underway here on Thursday. There was need for a National Book Policy to promote writing and translation of literature as well as encouraging book buying. Reading should be encouraged from a very early age.

“As a nation, any declining trend in reading, in awareness and engaging with not only history but also current ideas will mean that we will be doomed to repeat the same problems again and again. It is imperative to instil reading habit from a very young age”,  MP Baijayant Panda observed during the session  ‘Is India a reading Nation?’

Quoting the 2010 National Youth Readership Survey, Panda pointed out that though 74 per cent of youth were literate, only around 25 per cent of them claimed to be reading regularly. The most read languages were Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and English respectively, which meant the readership in the other languages, along with numerous other dialects, spoken by the vast majority of the population was not developing as it should be.

In order to inculcate the habit, supplementary reading sessions should be introduced in schools. ‘’In Malaysia, book coupons are given for children in schools, which are meant for books, stationary or any other study material. Though most of the coupons were spent on stationary, if only 10 per cent were spent on books, it could make a great difference. And that is what is being achieved there”, said Managing Director of Rupa Publications, Kapish Mehra.

The panelists also stressed on technology as a driver of reading in the country. The new generation is not only fascinated and hooked to technology, but also has more access to it. Books published anywhere and in any language can be accessed within moments these days.

“We need to harmonise the traditional with the modern to keep the youngsters interested. For example, like my young daughter, one does not need to take the book along for continuing reading. One can access the very page of the book on Kindle and progress to get back home and start on from the pages she finished on Kindle”, said country head of Amazon India Amit Agarwal.

While leading literary agent and book curator Anuj Bahri emphasised that there is enough readership in India which needs to be tapped by different means, moderator of the session, author, publisher Namita Gokhale, said festivals like OLF2013 can go a long way in promoting reading among the youth.

Publishing, in fact, is growing at a rate as high as 30 per cent in India while it is shrinking in other countries. More than 90,000 titles are published annually and the country is the largest market for English books after the US and the UK, Gokhale said.

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