The Khmer Writers’ Association, the Scholar Library and publishing house Business Record will hold the first Cambodian Book Day at the Morodok Techo National Stadium from April 6-10. There will be 48 booths exhibiting books – and a concurrent campaign will distribute roughly 1,000 free titles.

Sok Lak, the co-founder of Scholar Library – a community library based in Phnom Penh – said at a March 28 press conference that the book day would promote year-round reading. The day aims to promote the widespread dissemination of local and international books, inspire a culture of reading and love of books, as well as promote reading ability and an independent learning culture. It was made possible with the support of online shopping apps WOWNOW and Khmum.

He added that the programme would coincide with the 25th anniversary of World Book Day, which was established by UNESCO in April 1995. More than 100 countries have joined the campaign since then.

Lak said the 48 booths would represent publishing houses, bookshops – both brick-and-mortar and online, libraries, authors, book distributors and art and culture associations. The programme will hand out about 1,000 books, with the remaining stock expected to be discounted up to 70 per cent in order to promote recreational reading among those who may not be able to afford books.

“This campaign is for those who are in need or have difficulties finding or buying books. We want to contribute to a culture of reading in Cambodia,” he said, adding that around 10,000 participants are expected at the event.

He noted that the momentum of reading has increased significantly since 2017. Not only have more authors been published, but many institutions and ministries have taken part in encouraging reading. In addition there are now more bookstores in the provinces than ever, he added.

However, Lak said that some Cambodians are still confused about the purpose of reading and think that reading books is only for those who are studying, and not the general public. This is an elitist view that makes many people reluctant to read, he added.

“We are taking this opportunity, along with the writers’ association, to inspire the positive idea that all people, regardless of whether they are a motodop or civil servant, have the right to choose a book they like, and read it,” he said.

Pol Pisey, vice-president of the writers’ association, said the day would encourage writers and enable face-to-face encounters between readers and authors. It is an excellent way of promoting relationships between the two.

“When an author writes a book and it attracts supporters, it gives them strength. I am an author myself, and I don’t need material gifts – if a reader tells me they enjoyed my work, or found it interesting, I am happy. I hope this celebration of books brings writers and their fans together,” she said.

“We should inspire children to read from a very young age. I want to share something from my own youth. When I was a child, my father encouraged me to read, and thanks to him I have read something every day since my childhood,” she added.

She hoped the book day would inspire the next generation to love reading as much as she did. If people read just a little, every day, it will become a habit and they will fall in love with reading.