Reading Among 21st Century Filipinos

About 72 percent of adults reported reading the Bible; 53 percent picture books; 52 percent short stories, 48 percent romance novels, and 48 percent newspapers and reference materials. Moreover, books are prohibitive to many.

Filipinos are notknown to be readers, and this impasse needs to be broken so we can catapultinto the fourth industrial revolution which requires highly knowledgeable andcreative workers. And reading provides the quick route to knowledgeacquisition.

In 2017, the NationalBook Development Board did a survey which, on the surface, showed positive results:85 percent of youth and 77 percent of adults read books and periodicals andspent, respectively, an average of 8.7 and 9.4 hours reading per month.

Adults readprimarily to learn (43.8 percent of respondents), to keep up with the times(30.3 percent), and for leisure (19.5 percent). The youth read primarily tolearn (40.9 percent) and for leisure (22.5 percent), but not so much to keep upwith the times (only 8.7 percent did this). Moreover, 96 percent of youth and94 percent of adults enjoyed reading.

Further analysis, however,shows that the time devoted to reading is too short, averaging 19 minutes perday. This is inadequate to complete reading a book of any appreciable length. Toread seriously, you need at least 1-2 hours of reading time a day.

Our reading fare alsoleaves much to be desired. About 72 percent of adults reported reading theBible; 53 percent picture books; 52 percent short stories, 48 percent romancenovels, and 48 percent newspapers and reference materials. Moreover, books are prohibitiveto many. Three-fourths of the respondents are willing to spend only up to PHP199 for a book, far less than the PHP315 cost of pocketbook classics, and PHP700for a bestseller.

Howshould we address formidable reading challenges? Resorting to more IT approaches(especially free wifi) is an option. More reading should be required in schools,too. Translations can make intimidating texts more accessible. And localgovernments should be taken to task for their mandate to set up libraries andresource centers so books and information can be made more accessible. Mostimportantly, we need to invigorate early literacy programs, inculcating in childrenthe love of books.


About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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