SHOOTING THE BREEZE
WHY MALAYSIANS DON’T READ?
By Eric C. Forbes
THERE WAS MUCH TALK recently dissecting the reading habits (or lack thereof) of Malaysians. The high prices of books, as always, was cited as the main reason why Malaysians don’t read (or don’t read enough). I don’t think the high prices of books is the real reason for people not reading. We often see parents and their offspring willing to spend their easily-earned money on movies, CDs, DVDs, Irish coffee and designer sandwiches, digicams, laptops, iPods, fine dining experiences, fast food, cellphones, car accessories, computer games, kitchen extensions and curtains, fitness club memberships, tuition, etc., but when it comes to books, somehow they are hesitant to spend. Why this double standard? A very strange phenomenon indeed. Most people somehow prefer to hang out in multiplexes doing practically nothing. After all, we are living in the age of idleness and nothingness!
Human nature being what it is, people tend to overstuff their bellies with food and their bodies with all kinds of accoutrement, but deprive their souls of nourishment.
So what can we do. Truth be told, there is really nothing much we can do to encourage those who don’t read to read. I think most people basically don’t see the need to read at all. You know, nowadays you can do very well in life even if you hate reading. I know many people who have done so. However, for those who are serious about reading, try buying a book a month (since books are expensive), but make sure you buy a great one. In a year, you would have read 12 great books. Just imagine—12 greats books! Beats going to the university and getting a degree! That’s not too bad a place to start.
Malaysians on the average read two books a year according to statistics. This figure is too good to be true. Most of the people I meet or know do not read at all. This is no crime. Believe me, there are far worse crimes than not reading. Some of the nicest and kindest people I know do not read at all. (But then, some of the most despicable people I know do not read at all either.) Not reading does not make them any less human. But we can’t deny the fact that reading is a good habit to inculcate.