Boosting the reading habit among Malaysians
Published on: Wednesday, August 26, 2020
By: Bernama
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Photo: Bernama
Kuala Lumpur: Getting more Malaysians to read for pleasure and to gain knowledge is on ongoing “battle” in this country, with the government and various individuals doing their part to boost the reading habit among the public.

Local bibliophiles or book lovers are coming forward to urge Malaysians to share their reading activities on social media using the hashtags #klwbc2020 and #KLBaca in support of the year-long Kuala Lumpur World Book Capital (KLWBC) 2020 initiative which kicked off on April 23 with the slogan “KL Baca: Caring through Reading”.

As the host of WBC 2020, Kuala Lumpur has embarked on a series of events to inculcate the reading habit among the public. The World Book Capital initiative was first announced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 2001 and in 2018, Kuala Lumpur was named WBC for the year 2020.

Doing her part to get more Malaysians to read is BERNAMA Information Centre and News Library information manager Hasnita Ibrahim who recently produced a 30-minute video to review and promote a book written by Dr Zahrah Yunos titled “Projek Bibliofil: Melawan Mitos Bangsa Malas Membaca”.

Published in 2018, the book’s title, according to the author who is a dentist by profession, is based on the premise that people reading her book are seemingly involved in a project that would shape them into bibliophiles. As such, the myth that Malaysian society “is too lazy to read” can be debunked.

In her book, Dr Zahrah provides several tips on how to enjoy reading and set oneself on the path to becoming a bibliophile.

In her video commentary of the book, Hasnita outlines the five Ws (Why, What, When, Where, Who) and one H (How) of reading.  

Malaysians don't read enough

To quote Dr Zahrah, the average Malaysian only allocates three hours a week for reading activities, whereas people in other countries spend an average of 10 hours a week reading.

Why is reading important?

“In her book, Dr Zahrah raises a question for us to think about… why must we aspire to become a bibliophile and how can it improve our quality of life?

“Reading is one of the ways for us to gain knowledge. Hence, reading to procure knowledge is almost mandatory (in Islamic law),” said Hasnita.

Sharing her tips on how to overcome “reader’s block”, Dr Zahrah suggests starting with slim volumes first.

“Go to a book shop and take a look at the various titles there (so that you can pick a book with content that appeal to you) or join a book lovers group.”  

Getting started

Dr Zahrah feels the best time of the day to read is in the morning as this is the time when “the size of our brain is ‘big’, so it is the most suitable time to read ‘heavy’ academic materials such as philosophy, science or history books”.

Leisurely reading is advisable in the afternoon and evening and this includes reading of motivational-themed books. Fiction books can be kept aside for reading at night.

For those who have a daily schedule packed with work and other matters to attend to, Dr Zahrah suggests allocating 15 to 20 minutes a day for reading over a 21-day period. This, she says, will enable one to develop a habit for reading.

“To make reading an enjoyable activity, read in a place which puts you in high spirits… it can be your house, library, café, recreation park, beach or in the car,” says the author, adding that reading can also be a community activity where people can share their books with others, do book reviews, meet authors and participate in charity events related to reading.   

Hasnita, meanwhile, said by inculcating the reading habit, one not only gains more knowledge but also learns to focus better and gain more mental stimulation, better memory and empathy. Reading can also reduce stress and improve one’s social relations and level of creativity.

She also proposed that bibliophile clubs be established at workplaces to encourage employees to take up the reading habit.

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