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EDITORIAL: Reading Renaissance

THE recent findings from the 2023 Readership Survey commissioned by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) paint a sobering picture of the state of reading in our country.

With non-school book readership plummeting from its 2017 peak of 80 percent to a mere 42 percent, it’s easy to succumb to despair. However, rather than pointing fingers or lamenting the decline, it’s crucial to interpret these figures within the broader context of evolving literacies.

In the face of pessimism surrounding the demise of traditional print media, it’s essential to recognize that the decline of one medium often heralds the ascent of another. While print reading may be waning, the digital age has ushered in a renaissance of reading through alternative platforms such as smartphones, tablets, and audiobooks.

Just as the transition from manuscripts to printed books revolutionized reading habits centuries ago, today’s technological advancements offer new avenues for literary engagement.

Moreover, the notion of what constitutes “reading” has evolved over time. From the oral tradition of reading aloud to the silent absorption of text, the act of engaging with literature has continually adapted to societal changes. While some may lament the decline in traditional print reading, it’s crucial to acknowledge the diverse forms of literacy that have emerged in its wake.

The popularity of audiobooks, abridged versions, and multimedia adaptations demonstrates that while the medium may change, the essence of storytelling remains alive and well. While some may bemoan the lack of engagement with classic literary works, it’s heartening to see cultural touchstones like TV novelas sparking renewed interest in canonical texts.

However, amidst the proliferation of new reading modalities, it’s essential not to lose sight of the challenges that persist. The survey’s findings underscore troubling trends, such as the delayed onset of reading habits and the prevalence of learning poverty among Filipino schoolchildren.

Addressing these issues requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses educational reform, community engagement, and targeted interventions to promote literacy from an early age.

Furthermore, the survey highlights the socioeconomic barriers that hinder widespread access to books, with many considering reading a luxury rather than a fundamental right. From the preference for borrowing over purchasing to the reluctance to spend more than a nominal amount on books, it’s clear that affordability remains a significant concern.

As we confront these challenges, it’s imperative to leverage the findings of the NBDB survey to inform the development of a comprehensive national book development plan. By fostering collaboration between government agencies, educational institutions, and the private sector, we can work towards a future where reading is not just a pastime but a cornerstone of national identity and progress.

Ultimately, while the decline in traditional print reading may seem disheartening, it’s essential to view it as an opportunity for reinvention and renewal.

By embracing the diverse forms of literacy that characterize the modern age, we can ensure that the love of reading endures for generations to come.

As we cross the dynamic landscape of literacy, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to fostering a culture of reading that transcends boundaries and enriches lives.


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