Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t to encourage reading

Gov’t to encourage reading

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Students study at the National Library in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon. A new sub-decree signed by Hun Sen earlier this month will see an annual day of reading start next year in March. Hong Menea

Gov’t to encourage reading

Cambodia will celebrate an annual day of reading from March 11 in an effort to promote the habit nationally, according to a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday.

The decree calls on ministries, education institutes, local authorities, NGOs and the private sector to join in encouraging all citizens to embrace a love of reading and “the culture of the Cambodian people”.

Although literacy rates in the country are on the increase – UNESCO estimates almost 78 per cent among adults – popular reading habits continue to lag. According to a 2014 study by the literacy NGO Room to Read, Cambodians consume an average of just 1.5 books per year.

Khlot Vibolla, director of the National Library, confirmed that the number of students coming to research and peruse the facility’s collection has almost halved over the past year to around 100-150 per day.

“People in other countries have the habit of reading – when sitting on a plane or bus or whenever they have free time, they’ll always read,” she said. “But for us Cambodians, there is little of this culture.

We must urge our children from age 5 to read for at least 15 minutes each day.”

Book lovers agree that Hun Sen’s initiative is a good stepping stone to cultivating the habit on a popular level.

“We do not read very much as a culture due to past issues around war and immigration,” says Hok Sothik, president of Cambodia’s Librarians and Document Association and head of the local publishing NGO SIPAR.

“We hope that the national day will awaken or renew Cambodians’ desire to read as in other countries.”

However, according to Siv Meng, the author of several romance novels and self-help books (and a regular contributor to the Post’s property section), the new festival needs to be coupled with a boost to education programs as well as to the local industry.

“The Ministry of Education needs to push their reading program in schools harder, encouraging engagement with the world and critical thought,” Meng said, noting that the low quality of contemporary Khmer literature is an obstacle to cultivating a love of reading.

“Often people don’t want to read because the books available in Khmer are no good. Many writers here have become too proud, so they don’t study, read other literature or strive to improve their writing.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia-Thailand rail reconnected after 45 years

    A railway reconnecting Cambodia and Thailand was officially inaugurated on Monday following a 45-year hiatus, with the two kingdoms’ prime ministers in attendance at the ceremony. On the occasion, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha travelled together from Thailand’s

  • Thousands attend CNRP-organised pro-democracy vigil in South Korea

    Thousands of supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Saturday gathered in the South Korean city of Gwangju to hold a candlelight demonstration calling for the “liberation” of democracy in Cambodia. Yim Sinorn, a CNRP member in South Korea, said on

  • US Embassy: Chinese trade does not help like the West’s

    The US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday said relations between China and Cambodia did not create jobs or help industry when compared to the trade between the Kingdom and the US. “About 87 per cent of trade [with China] are Chinese imports, which do not

  • The Christian NGO empowering Cambodian families in Siem Reap

    With its basketball court, football pitch, tennis court and ninja warrior water sports area, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Siem Reap campus of International Christian Fellowship (ICF) Cambodia is a sports centre. But while these free, family-friendly activities are one of the