'Book capital' looks to boost reading
BMA to build more libraries, wants residents to read 10 books a yearDespite the fact that Thais read only about five books per year on average, Bangkok has received international recognition after being selected for the prestigious "World Book Capital 2013" award by Unesco to encourage Bangkokians to read more.
"It is an honour for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration [BMA] to receive this award because we've been active in raising reading awareness in Bangkok," former deputy governor Taya Teepsuwan said.
"We initially set a lofty goal to win the award, which prompted many to question whether it was attainable since Thais read so little," she added. "But if we don't aim high, we cannot gain the necessary support from other organisations."
"The number of books local people read is very low - only two to five per year on average. We want to increase this figure to 10 books per year. We have since initiated various programmes to promote and establish a reading culture in Bangkok. We believe the success in Bangkok will serve as a model for other provinces," Taya said.
The BMA won the award primarily due to the strong commitment and support from 89 organisations and companies when it submitted a proposal to Unesco for consideration. Now, over 100 organisations and companies have been working together on this project for the past three years. The BMA has allocated a substantial budget to build more libraries and has received donations from the partners to fund this project, according to Taya.
The BMA has several projects in the pipeline for the next three years. First, it plans to institute a city library. The city hall will be relocated to the Din Daeng district while the current city hall building will be turned into the city library and museum. Next, BMA plans to expand the number of libraries in its districts from 38 to at least 50 libraries in 50 districts. Third, it plans to increase "little book houses" in the communities by coordinating with many banks and hospitals to open book corners. Lastly, the BMA has initiated the "Read on the Move" campaign to allow those stuck in traffic to better spend their time by reading. The BMA has placed many kinds of books, such as short stories, newspapers and health magazines, in over 100 buses and given book bags to over 500 taxis.
Taya related the BMA's plan to increase reading areas. "Wherever they go, [people] will have easy access to books. Our target groups are of all ages," she said. To inspire them to read, the BMA has appointed six reading ambassadors.
This year, Taya said the BMA had set a budget of Bt280 million for the activities. Book lovers can expect ongoing activities and celebrations throughout the year with the most important on April 23 as Yeravan [in Armenia], the winner of "World Book Capital 2012," transfers the award to Bangkok. Representatives from many World Book Capital cities from the past would be invited to join the celebrations as well as other honoured guests both locally and internationally. The BMA has planned to host a three-day and three-night celebration for this special award.
In 2014, the BMA will have an important campaign where international publishers will attend an International Publishers Association seminar in Bangkok.
Taya holds monthly meetings with all of the project's partners to discuss what the BMA plans in terms of increasing areas of reading, activities, and PR and marketing. It has an activity calendar for the partners from January-December for the next three years. "We cannot have even a month without any activity. We must have regular movement to create awareness to ensure continuity and commitments," said Taya.
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