Fewer children seen frequenting libraries
The habit of reading seems to be on the decline among Thais; BMA urged to make efforts to promote the habitIt was about 3pm-4pm on Tuesday. Roads in a community in Bangkok's Khlong Toei district were more crowded as it was the time when students were walking along the roads, some sitting inside pickup vans to go back home after school. Given a choice, most of them would probably prefer to stay at home or go out for other activities, like playing with their friends or playing sports or online games.
Two girls, however, do something different. They read at a small library in the community - an activity that could be admired by parents and even others who see them.
This, in a way, depicts the country's situation when it comes to reading where few children go to a library outside their study hours while most of the children prefer doing other activities.
"More than 10,000 people live or stay in many communities here in Khlong Toei but less than 1,000 of them are members of our library," Arunee Promma, secretary-general of the Sikkha Asia Foundation, told The Nation during a visit to one of its three libraries in Bangkok. Two other libraries are in other areas, and each of them has about 600-700 members.
Associate Professor Kulwara Chupongpairod, a former lecturer at Srinakharinwirot University, with expertise in library science and story-telling to promote the reading habit in children, said Thai people preferred watching or listening rather than reading as that activity required more concentration. The country also lacked professional librarians as young people preferred other jobs that offered more career growth.
About 10-20 people use the library after school or work in the evening at this library, while during weekends there are 20-30 people, according to Arunee.
Arunee said the majority of the members were children from kindergarten to Prathom 6 (Grade 12), and the foundation had done activities considered enjoyable and interesting for the children such as story-telling, games and rewards to draw more of them to try reading and enter the library.
CATERING TO STUDENTS' NEEDS
"We try to listen to what people in these communities want and the library tries to provide them with what they want in an attempt to encourage more of them to go to the library," Arunee said.
"I usually come here to read, especially cartoon books," Natnicha Yangdee, a nine-year-old member of the library, said while holding a cartoon book about chickenpox disease in her hands.
Chonticha Rodsesamut, a 28-year-old member of the library who is also a teacher, said she often borrowed fiction, cooking and English communication books as well as fables to read to her pupils at her school.
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has campaigned to encourage people in Bangkok to read more books as it has been named World Book Capital 2013 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It is focused on increasing the number of libraries and reading areas, and equipping some libraries with special functions.
Being people who are familiar with the libraries, Arunee and Chonticha urged the BMA to pay more attention to encouraging Bangkokians to read and go to a library.
"It is very difficult to convince people to go to a library as the majority of the people earn low incomes and they see the matter of surviving or earning a living for their family as the most important thing. How would they see the importance of spending time reading in a library or having their children do so? So, to get more people to use a library is more important. BMA should not just provide more reading areas, but also it should think about how to bring more people to the libraries," Arunee said.
Kulwara recommended that parents usually read fables or fairy tales to their children as they liked such stories and they would be able to learn reading from what parents read to them.
As a teacher for many years, Chonticha said children did not like reading, and also she found only some people read newspapers at a library that was not well taken care of in her community, while children used it as if it was a play area where they run around with friends.
"It's not necessary to increase the number of libraries. Even though we have up to 10 libraries in a community, they will be useless if no one makes use of them. Activities that lure more people, especially kids to read and books that people want to read, are more important. I want BMA to convince more people to read and go to a library," Chonticha urged.
Also, Arunee wants BMA to fund many organisations, including her foundation, which have been running libraries enabling them to adjust the environment of the libraries and become more friendly reading venues.