National Reading Day has been organised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) on March 11 every year since 2016.

The Cambodian government chose March 11 to celebrate National Reading Day as it was the birthday of Samdech Preah Sanghareach Chuon Nath, who served as Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia from 1948 to 1969.

This pays tribute to the heroism of Chuon Nath, who worked tirelessly to protect Khmer literary and cultural heritage during the French colonial period, and promote a culture of reading and cultivate lifelong reading habits among students and all Cambodians.

Among Chuon Nath’s most renowned achievements are the publication of the Khmer dictionary in 1928 and writing the Cambodian national anthem, Nokor Reach.

National Reading Day is celebrated from the sub-national to national levels in collaboration with ministries, relevant institutions, authorities at all levels, development partners and other stakeholders.

This article is to focus on National Reading Day and achievements made related to reading.

Reading is an integral part of Cambodian government policy to develop human resources and build a more prosperous society.

It is important to develop the populace to be fully qualified and prosperous, with a balance between education, skills, attitude, behaviour and physical fitness, and conscientiousness, patriotism and humanity.

With technology constantly evolving, there are many more options available for readers, with electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers joining the traditional media of books, magazines and newspapers.

While modern technology can make accessing reading material easier and less time-consuming, and also helps the environment, books remain hugely popular.

However, not all learners are able to access the same reading opportunities, due to factors of geography, technology, resources and stakeholder involvement, with electronic options closing such gaps.

In the Cambodian context, especially during the period of preventative measures against Covid-19, the Ministry of Education has promoted digital education and distance learning to advance reading.

This was done through providing textbooks for students, making instructional videos and distributing worksheets for students to study at home, with lessons and other materials uploaded on official and partner media platforms.

However, reading in the context of Covid-19 still required explaining and clarifying by teachers and parents, which called for additional support from MoEYS, education authorities at all levels and educational institutions.

MoEYS has organised National Reading Day on March 11 every year since 2016.

Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, National Reading Day was celebrated effectively using online and hybrid (semi-online) approaches.

Every year, the National Reading Day celebrations become more and more widespread and exciting, with growing public engagement and an increasing number of important events to promote reading in

Cambodia, such as:

• Publicity disseminated across various media, and via banners, slogans and leaflets;

• Press conferences;

• Reading, poetry and composition competitions for students from the sub-national to national level;

• Competitions on interpreting impotant topics for education officials and the public;

• Book exhibitions;

• Lectures on important topics;

• Presentations and discussions by keynote speakers.

The theme for National Reading Day 2023 – the eighth occasion the Ministry of Education organised the celebration – was “Reading as a Path to the Evolution of the Education Sector”.

And like the previous year, the Ministry of Education organised reading, poetry and composition competitions at the sub-national and national levels to bestow the “Samdech Techo Hun Sen Awards”.

Students were selected according to each level, in accordance with the three main disciplines:

The celebration of reading is held on the birthday of Chuon Nath, who compiled the Khmer dictionary.

• Reading competitions for Grade 6 students;

• Poetry competitions for Grade 7 to Grade 9 students;

• Composition competitions for Grade 10 to Grade 12 students, with literary and philosophical interpretation competitions for education officials and the public.

In addition, MoEYS organised photo booths, book exhibitions and discussions on “The Importance of Reading in Education”.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sport HE Dr Hang Chuon Naron also presented a lecture on “Assessing Students’ Learning Outcomes in the Context of 21st Century Education”.

The theme of the 8th National Reading Day on March 11, 2023 – “Reading as a Path to the Evolution of the Education Sector” – reflected the rapidly changing landscape of education in line with the context of peace and sustainable development for the nation and the world.

The concept is not only about education and learning literacy and numeracy, but also revolutionising and innovating education in all fields, especially regarding digital literacy, which is rapidly evolving.

To promote reading and writing, Minister of Education HE Dr Chuon Naron annually carries out research to write books, presenting the completed work to participants and the general public as part of National Reading Day.

HE Dr Chuon Naron has so far written 36 books – 21 in Khmer, nine in English and six in French.

His books are on subjects ranging from economics, education, law and history, to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Ministry of Education will begin preparations for National Reading Day 2024 in the coming year, organising celebrations nationwide across all provinces and the capital with a campaign involving the distribution of leaflets and information on the various programmes disseminated on social media.

This will also includes exhibitions, competitions and celebrations to encourage all ministries, public institutions, private enterprises and people across the country to participate in the promotion of reading.

National Reading Day aims to strengthen reading habits and turn such an important activity into a national movement, with the scope of celebrations continuing to expand every year.