Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Burying our noses in books

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

THE sweet scent of paper. The comforting feeling of a hardcover in your hands. And the thrill of turning to the last page to know how the story ends.

These experiences from reading books, novels and others can never be replaced by our handphones and digital devices.

But even at a time when everything is online and available at the tap of a button, Malaysians seem to love the written word in print.

In fact, the National Library of Malaysia has recorded more membership applications and higher number of borrowed materials over the past few months.

A check by Sunday Star on the library’s website showed that more people have applied to be members from 2,563 applications in February to 4,153 in May this year.

More reading materials are also being borrowed, steadily increasing – 27,293 in February, 32,390 in March, rising to 34,111 in April and 34,436 in May .At present, people can choose to enjoy audiobooks, e-books and other digital reading material.

But printed books are still a strong choice among Malaysians when it comes to leisure reading, deep dive reading and the non-fiction category, says Malaysian Book Publishers Association president Arief Hakim Sani Rahmat.

“This is especially when people want to turn off from social media noise,” he says.

However, while Malaysians love to read, Arief Hakim Sani points out that there are areas which can be improved.

“We hope that the new #MalaysiaMembaca reading campaign initiated by the Education Minister will get serious funding and receive public support,” he adds.

The Malaysian love affair with books is also evident during book sales and festivals, with crowds making a beeline for them, happily carting away their purchases.

About 650,000 people visited the BookFest@Malaysia that ended on June 9, an event by Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd, which has grown stronger every year.

Malaysians also flocked to previous sales like the Big Bad Wolf book sale, which opened 24 hours for avid readers to shop at any time of day.

These signs show a healthy love for reading but more still needs to be done if Malaysia is to be on par with developed countries.

Citizens in such countries read an average of 40 books a year, the Education Ministry said in reports.

Malaysians, in comparison, read only 15 books a year, based on an interim study done by the National Library in 2014. In 2005, Malaysians only read two books a year.

While the ministry is embarking on efforts to boost reading through the National Reading Decade, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) also suggests that school libraries be revamped to attract more young minds.

“Make the library a place of choice and what students want,” says NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan.For one, the selection of books should be contemporary to reflect the times.

He observes that libraries in local schools are somewhat conservative.

“Our knowledge doubles up every few years but most of our books are still the same,” he says.

To make it attractive for students, libraries should also be a more welcoming place.

“There should be beanie bags for students to read in a relaxed setting. Lockers and coffee machines could also be included to create a friendly environment and encourage more to step inside a library,” he suggests.

In December, the ministry declared 2020 to 2030 as the National Reading Decade, to foster a reading culture among Malaysians.

The ministry had said although 87% of Malaysians do read, there was still a need to strengthen the habit across society.

“A campaign to inculcate reading among Malaysians has been implemented for over two decades through various programmes.

“However, there’s still not enough impact and participation,” the ministry said.

As such, the ministry has ongoing plans to increase efforts to encourage reading through national reading campaigns until 2020.

Then, from 2021 to 2030, during the National Reading Decade, the ministry wants to transform Malaysia into a reading nation.

It was reported that Malaysia ranked as among the world’s highest spenders on books based on a recent study by Polish e-commerce firm Picodi.According to the report in April, 76% of Malaysians bought at least one book over the past year.

However, the study noted that this does not reflect actual reading habits.

A main factor to boost the reading culture is starting them young.

Tan admits that while students do read, it just isn’t always know­ledge-based information or what their teachers want.

“They know about the latest apps online. They can also read and sing Korean pop songs, and they do it on their own,” he observes.

As such, Tan says the challenge is to make students want to read about educational material, either through physical books or through digital devices.

“Perhaps one way is to spark curiosity and interest through science-based comics.

“We need to embrace new ways to reach out to students and learn to change the stuff they read to what we want to teach,” he adds.

Nevertheless, the love for books burns bright, despite it being the digital age.

Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd executive director Lim Lee Ngoh says youths have many distractions like social media and video games.

“As a bookseller, it’s always our role to encourage Malaysians to read. This year, we want to urge youths to cultivate the good habit of reading.

“But despite the Internet and digital devices, Malaysians in general still love reading and buying books.

“From our observation, people purchase books based on their preference for authors while some buy books to add to their collection,” she says.

By Yuen Meikeng
Read more @

Physical books are more personal than e-books, say Malaysian bookworms.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

THERE’S nothing like curling up with a good book for company.

When asked why they prefer reading physical books than e-books or other online material, several book lovers say it is simply a more personal experience.

“Books are more like companions, so I can say that most book lovers like me are normally emotionally attached to our hard copies.

“It also feels like I have ownership of the books – ‘They’re mine, I love them! My precious!’

“The books I read also represent my identity, personality, feelings and somewhat define who I am or who I want to be.

“Hence, I take really great care of my books like they’re part of me.

“E-books don’t evoke such feelings. It feels more like a digital service,” says Juliana, who started reading more avidly two years ago after she quit her office job.

She believes the reading culture here is blooming, with more people selling second-hand books, vintage publications on social media and online marketplaces.

“Some people also do book swaps, so getting hold of books are made easy and cheap,” adds Juliana, who enjoys genres like

fantasy, sci-fi, romance and classic literature.

She believes many more Malaysians would want to read if they have more balanced lifestyles.

“It will take a lot of effort from the government, institutions including libraries and corporations to come up with efficient ways to promote reading to Malaysians,” she says.

Postgraduate student Anna Raj, 29, also points out that the look and feel of physical books put her in the mood to read.

“With online stuff, I find that I struggle to focus and my reading speed is slowed down,” she says.

Anna buys an average of 30 books a year, having a habit of borrowing books from friends and local libraries since young.

“Through my childhood and teenage years, I’ve enjoyed fiction, especially the fantasy genre.

“But more recently I prefer non-fiction books that are related to political studies and current affairs,” she says.

She agrees that Malaysia’s reading culture is average and we need to do more.

“In developed nations like the United Kingdom, you will find

people reading just about everywhere, especially when on public transportation,” she observes.

Anna says she does see many youths carting away boxes of books at sales but from observation, they don’t read them as often as they should.

As someone who admits buying loads of books from sales, marketing executive Mike Lam, 28, says he goes for the discounts and buys in bulk.

“Sometimes, I buy bags and bags of them until my mother complains,” he laughs.

Lam says he prefers to buy physical books to support his favourite authors including Paulo Coelho, J. K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin.

“I also read works from politicians and popular personalities including Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

“I like to keep track of what I read too, it feels better with a physical copy than an e-book,” he says.

Lam says reading books also offers a chance to disconnect from digital screens which are part of everyday life today.

However, some do believe that e-books and online publications have its own benefits.

IT executive Candice Wong, 34, says she reads online articles from magazine websites during her spare time to unwind.

“I can read it anywhere as long as I have my phone with me. There is also the option of viewing photos and videos online.

Read more @

Malaysians love reading, but fewer local books sold.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

PETALING JAYA: The love for rea­ding is growing with more people applying to be members of the National Library.

There has been a steady growth in membership applications every month from 2,563 in February to 4,153 in May this year, according to the National Library’s website.

But sales of locally published books have declined, leading to less revenue for Malaysian publishers.

The Malaysian Book Publishers Association (Mabopa) said this was due to, among other reasons, fewer books being published in the country.

The total revenue earned by local book publishers shrank by 29% from RM1.192bil in 2014 to RM847mil in 2016.

“Revenue started to drop after 2015 due to the decline in sales.

“It also declined in 2016 because of the cancellation of the previous government’s book voucher programme for students.

“Another factor is reduced consumer spending power in the past few years,” said Arief Hakim Sani.

The industry took a hit when the RM1,000 tax incentive specifically for books was replaced with a RM2,500 lifestyle tax relief inclusive of books, Internet subscription and other things in 2017.

Last year, 18,663 book titles were published locally with most being under the languages and literature categories, according to the statistics of books registered under the Library Depository Act.

Malaysians, on average, read about 15 books a year based on an interim study done by the National Library in 2014.

But this is still a long way to go compared to those from developed countries who read an average of 40 books a year.

Arief Hakim Sani said the association believed that reading would grow in tandem with Malaysia’s economic and social progress.

“We hope the government will boost reading culture through tax incentives, specifically targeting the purchase of reading materials, book donations, and for royalty income from writing.

“There are existing incentives but we need more, especially with the current rising cost of living in Malaysia,” he said.

Arief Hakim Sani hoped there would be funding for libraries to purchase and restore book collections with latest books.

In March, it was reported that Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said he would reinstate the RM250 book vouchers that students once received under the now-­defunct 1Malaysia Book Vou­cher (BB1M) programme by next year.

Currently, the ministry provides RM100 aid to each student under the new Higher Education Student Aid programme.

This one-off aid is channelled into debit cards for students known as Kad Diskaun Siswa, enabling them to buy reading material, stationery, computer equipment and Internet access.

“Any extended assistance from this programme in future is subject to the financial capabilities of the government and based on the need to fulfil other commitments,” the ministry said when contacted.

Despite the changing times, the ministry said that a reading culture was still the key that led a society to be advanced and developed.

By Yuen Meikeng
Read more @

Writer commemorates father’s life, childhood with book

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

Cyril (second right) presenting ‘Dungkahang to Seria: My father’s quest, my growing up’ to Wong. Also seen is Tan Sri Herman J Luping (seated), who wrote the foreword for the book.

KOTA KINABALU: To commemorate his father’s life and his childhood, growing up with Kadazan roots in Brunei, Cyril Wong wrote the book ‘Dungkahang to Seria: My father’s quest, my growing up.’

After presenting the book to the Sabah State Library, Cyril told reporters that he was inspired to write it after meeting his father’s side of the family.

“I thought, instead of just documenting my father’s family tree, why not tell his story? I started in mid-March last year and completed the book within a year.

“The tough part was getting old photographs and liaising with those I interviewed for the book. It also took a bit of time to get permission from Brunei Shell to use their statistics,” he said.

In the aftermath of World War II, Cyril explained how his father was among those who sought to rebuild and make a life for himself. His quest for greener pastures led him to Seria, Brunei, where he worked in the oil and gas industry.

“My father embarked on working life in his young adult years, in his early 20s. He remained at the company (Shell) till he retired.

“He started in a low position and worked his way up, taking extra classes along the way and studying English to improve his communication skills. His last posting was as a steward in Labuan,” he elaborated.

Cyril hoped the book would impact targeted readers, namely the younger generation as well as those in his age group. For younger readers, he hoped the book would provide insight to the way of life in his childhood, while he hoped his peers would be able to appreciate a trip down memory lane and his re-telling of his experience growing up out of Sabah.

“I want to tell the younger generation how challenging life was in my time. Back then, we had to plant our own paddy for rice. Now, you can simply buy it from shops.

“For school fees, my parents had to collect firewood. I want to tell youths that although life may be hard, you can survive if you continue to seek knowledge and polish your skills.

“As for my age group, I want to share my experience growing up in Seria. I had a good childhood there and enjoyed growing up in an oil town,” he explained.

Cyril’s effort was commended by Sabah State Library director Wong Vui Yin, who said the book would help preserve the literary heritage of Sabah.

“The significance of this is very great. Not many people nowadays write books or can put their thought to paper. This book is a great effort that documented a part of history through the writer’s experiences,” he said.


Read more @

Tanjung Aru library opens for business

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019


Yusof with Wong touring the book shelves at the library.

KOTA KINABALU: The spanking new five-storey Tanjung Aru Sabah State Library is opened for business. The library opens from 9am to 9pm daily.

Minister of Education and Innovation Datuk Dr. Yusof Yacob asserted that the iconic library which is under the purview of the ministry would become a source of knowledge for people of all ages.

With state-of-the-art facilities provided in the library, he hoped it would bring great benefit to the people.

“We hope the facilities here will stimulate the maturity and knowledge-seeking process for people of Sabah, not only adults but children as well.

“This is our target in the ministry – to encourage the public and students, regardless of their age, to make use of the facilities here as a source of knowledge.

“We hope it will be beneficial,” he said when visiting the library yesterday.

The 62,000 sq feet building consists of several sections for children, teenagers and adults, and offers facilities such as a multipurpose room, children play area, music studio, Petrosains makers’ room, and a giant hammock to create fun and easy environment.

It is also equipped with Wi-Fi and can accommodate up to 1,000 visitors at one time, with over 100 parking lots provided.

Set up on a three-acre land, the RM40 million building was developed as part of a corporate social responsibility programme by the Lahad Datu Water Supply Sdn Bhd and Sabah Development Bank which contributed RM20 million each.

The Sabah government had allocated RM8 million for the interiors and RM1.6 million for infrastructures. Also present yesterday were assistant ministers Jenifer Lasimbang and Mohammad Mohamarin, and State Library director Wong Vui Yin.

According to Yusof, the official opening ceremony of the library will be held on April 23, in conjunction with the sabah-level Reading Campaign 2019.


Read more @

Kids get free books with their meals

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
McDonald’s Malaysia Marketing director, Eugene Lee with the Treetop Twins Adventures book at the launch of McDonald’s Happy Meal Readers programme.

KUALA LUMPUR: In an effort to bring families together and foster a reading culture among Malaysians, McDonald’s Malaysia launched its Happy Meal Readers programme today.

Under the programme, customers have the option of choosing a book from the Treetop Twins Adventures series written by Cressida Cowell, author of the bestselling How to Train Your Dragon series instead of a toy.

The book series, exclusive to McDonald’s, will feature 12 standalone stories, with one book set to be released each month throughout the year.

The pint-sized Treetop Twins Adventures series are centred on the world of dinosaurs and are available in both English and Bahasa Malaysia to cater for the Malaysian market.

Using the app, families can read and interact with the stories to bring the book illustrations to life, further amplifying the experience while nurturing valuable family time.

McDonald’s Malaysia Marketing director, Eugene Lee said that the programme is in support of the government’s aspirations in making Malaysia a reading nation under the 10-year National Reading Decade Programme.

“We applaud the Education Ministry for encouraging all Malaysians to read and we are extremely excited that we can do our part in promoting the benefits of reading to parents and children alike,” said Lee.

To make the reading experience more fun and appealing to children, digital versions of the books have also been made available through the Happy Studio App which can be downloaded on both the Android Play Store as well as the Apple Store. Through the app, users can read the stories and interact using the online activities available.

“McDonald’s Malaysia wants to encourage families to spend more time together. The Happy Meal Readers Programme encourages parents to enjoy quality time with their children through reading,” added Lee.

“We hope that this programme will instil a lifelong love of reading among children by making it a fun activity for the whole family.”

by Hanna Sheikh Mokhtar.

Read more @

NST Leader: Why do we read and write so little?

Monday, March 18th, 2019
(Stock image for illustration purposes) Because we expend so diminutive an effort to make Malaysians love the written word

IN Malaysia, it is difficult to bring pen to paper. Writing is so very hard to do. Getting people to read serious material is equally difficult.

Maybe it is the clime. Maybe it is just us. But we must overcome this.

Otherwise we will be a nation of neither readers nor writers. Being bookless is death of a national mind.

But there is a paradox here. According to Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar, a man of the pen himself, Malaysians are reading more but not serious literature as such.

Like the video that killed the radio star, the Internet is dwindling Malaysia’s reading public.

The smartphone, too, is playing a role of one which is complicit in ringing the death knell. The hand-held device is making us a nation of touch-and-go readers.

Our attention span is, post-electronic devices, a mere eight seconds. Even a goldfish holds its attention a second more.

Let’s consider the lament of the man of the pen. Malaysia produces 15,000 titles a year, but 70 per cent of them are textbooks.

Not that we are belittling textbooks, but serious literature is not made of these. Picture this. China publishes 440,000 titles, the United States 304,000, Germany 93,000 and India 90,000.

We are palest of the pale. Even indi publishers have thinned over the years. During the heyday, we had 43 independent publishing houses.

Today, there are only nine of them left. A RM6-million market has dwindled to RM1 million. There is an irony as well.

Malaysia’s broiler chicken industry makes more than our book publishing business: RM2.5 billion versus RM1.5 billion, in the words of Johan.

But you cannot just rouse the people to do this thing overnight. They call literature humanities for a reason.

You cannot get a Kennedy to give a put-a-man-on-the-moon kind of speech to push people to pen and paper.

Or do what India did to win many Miss Universe and Miss World titles: get a consultant to train the aspirants. No, this is neither a race to the lunar surface nor a beauty parade. The Nobel prize for literature is no catwalk.

The lack of a Malaysian Nobel laureate in literature is where reading lies buried.

The ways of the old — of serious reading and writing — is gone with the advent of the Internet and its attendant gadgets. Unlike elsewhere in the world — where a book is published every 30 seconds in a US$100 billion business — Malaysia’s written word market is waning.

Johan says parents must keep the gadgets away from their children and start reading to them. We agree. The seed for the love of the word must be planted early.

This will make it easier for the teachers to nurture the reading, and later the writing habit. Being a habit, it can be taught. More importantly, it can be learned.

Read more @

Msia pushes reading nation aspiration under National Reading Decade programme

Friday, December 14th, 2018
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik reads a story book after launching the National Reading Decade (DMK) programme in Putrajaya. – —NSTP/AHMAD IRHAM MOHD NOOR

PUTRAJAYA: The Education Ministry has a long to-do list to promote reading culture in Malaysia under the 10-year National Reading Decade (DMK) 2021-2030 programme.

Its minister Dr Maszlee Malik said the DMK programme, scheduled to be launched early next year, aimed to turn Malaysia into a Reading Nation by 2030.

“Nonetheless, work will start from now until 2020, with focus on the DMK campaign,” he said at the pre-launch of the DMK programme today.

Strategies to implement DMK, he listed, would include establishing strategic networks and mobilising programmes to encourage reading at various places including schools, public interest spots, shopping centres, public transport and hospitals.

“Just imagine, if we can have reading corners at all these places, even at the petrol stations, R&R stops, the mamak shops and fast food chains, where people can access and donate books,” said Maszlee, adding that perhaps consideration should be given to the underprivileged groups, who were qualified to receive tithes and other aid, for their children to be given books.

The minister also said reading ambassadors would be appointed under the #MALAYSIAMEMBACA slogan, which would be popularised nationwide, adding the need to translate more great works to Bahasa Melayu and vice-versa as well as provide special incentives including tax exemption for programmes to encourage reading and contribution given for the development of libraries and the book industry.

He said steps would be taken to have better access to e-books via ubiquitous library, free e-book zone, digital magazines as well as libraries for audio book and braille.

On Malaysians’ reading habit, Maszlee said people read 15 books a year based on an interim report on Malaysian reading habit in 2014 compared to two books a year in 2007.

He also said Malaysians’ literacy rate stood at 94.94 per cent based on the Unesco Institute for Statistics’ Adult and Youth Literacy National Regional and Global Trends 1985-2015.

A study by the Central Connecticut State University entitled “The World’s Most Literate Nation” had ranked Malaysia at the 53rd spot, far behind neighbouring countries including Singapore which had secured 36th place, he said.

“The study has declared the Nordic nations (Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden) as the most literate nations in the world,” Mazslee said, stressing on the importance of reading by saying that a great nation is a reading nation.

By Azura Abas.

Read more @

Creating a culture of reading

Sunday, December 9th, 2018
Dr Maszlee (middle) is flanked by Prof Hassan on his left and Dr Siti Hamisah (right) as he launches the ReadUni programme at UiTM in Shah Alam. — Bernama

Dr Maszlee (middle) is flanked by Prof Hassan on his left and Dr Siti Hamisah (right) as he launches the ReadUni programme at UiTM in Shah Alam. — Bernama

UNIVERSITY students should be agents of change, take the lead and encourage society to read more.

This is Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik’s message to all varsity students in order to create an educated and civilised society.

He recently launched the Read@Uni programme at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in conjunction with the National Reading Decade.

The programme is part of efforts to create a society that likes to read and with world-class knowledge.

Themed “With knowledge, we lead”, the programme aims to intensify the current activities to foster a love for reading among the target groups – students, lecturers and the staff at universities.

He said that the onus to spread the love of books does not just fall on the students but on the universities as well.

“I also hope that the libraries in Malaysian higher learning institutions not only target the Read @ Uni programmne to university students but should also go down to the community,” he added.

Dr Maszlee said that universities should conduct more discussions and debates based on books that require a high level of thinking.

“(Universities should) create a vibrant reading environment.

“A developed nation cannot be formed if it doesn’t have a young generation that is (morally) balanced, mature and highly knowledgeable,” he added.

These attributes can only be formed through reading materials that require a high level of thinking.

Dr Maszlee said he hopes to see Malaysians spending more than 10 hours a week reading.

He added that according to the World Culture Index 2017, Malaysia ranks among the countries that spend less than five hours a week reading.

During the launch, UiTM vice-chancellor Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said said libraries are the main drivers to intensify efforts to create a reading culture among Malaysians by 2030.

“Libraries should play a role in promoting and implementing campaigns from time to time to ensure the reading culture will always be a close friend of university students,” he added.

“Besides encouraging lifelong learning and a love of learning, especially among university students, such initiatives can create a society rich in knowledge and knowledgeable in various fields.”

Read more @

A better read with meaning-making

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
Pupils participating in a reading programme in Kota Baru. Literacy for life will place meaning-making above the plane of simple decoding. FILE PIC

AS we race towards becoming a developed nation, many have been made aware that a well-informed and critical citizenry is crucial for the survival of a democracy. One way in which a citizenry becomes well-informed is by possessing a strong reading culture. Yet, although Malaysia’s literacy levels are known to be considerably high, with the youth’s literacy rates being reported by Unesco to be at 98 per cent, Malaysians are not known for being ardent readers.

We believe there are at least three reasons for this finding.

FIRST , literacy, which is generally understood as reading and writing, is subsumed under language education in the Malaysian context. This has significant implications for how school literacy is perceived and treated.

Our own research has shown that Malaysians who are schooled to be literate in multiple languages often also fail to be encultured with the broader, deeper practice of reading for pleasure. While it is understandable that Malaysia’s education policies are, and indeed must be, historically and socioculturally shaped by the country’s identification with language instruction due largely to its multilingually-rich context, it is the reticence in literacy matters that needs voicing. This silence, if nationally not addressed, will result in perpetuating the already uneven development of literacy culture, where those largely from privileged backgrounds continue to benefit from growing up in literacy-rich homes.

SECOND, literacy research in the Malaysian context is still scarce. In contrast with research in language education, literacy research has not received sufficient attention. This is also a reflection of research in literacy education in the Southeast Asian region where new efforts must be made for charting trajectories and initiating conversations. These conversations must be located in local communities and must account for how our post-colonial past collides with our current developing-nation, socioeconomically-driven status that go on to shape education, language and literacy policies.

THIRD , Malaysian educationists tend to define literacy in narrow terms. To view reading and writing as being largely about decoding serves to reduce the experience of “meaning-making”. This view impacts the way reading and writing are rigidly assessed in school contexts. Standardised tests that assume all children read and comprehend texts in the same way can shortchange actual readers’ genuine efforts in making sense of non-mainstream texts.

We argue that being able to read must mean more than being able to comprehend alphabetic texts which are often prescribed by a powerful other. We urge educators and policymakers to take on a paradigm shift and acknowledge how reading and writing is changing in the 21st century. Particularly, the sociocultural perspective of literacy and education has been found to be a powerful means that speaks to matters of inequality, marginalisation and social injustice as they relate to Malaysians sustaining literacy practices.

Some of our cross-continent research demonstrate how a perspective that takes into account the context, background and even geography of the individual reader is able to rationalise and localise literacy challenges which marginalised communities face.

More importantly, this broad perspective that considers multiple forms of meaning-making is able to address how reading can mean differently to different communities. Armed with such consideration, new dimensions of what it means to read and to make meaning from symbols surrounding that community can be created so that being literate can be understood from inclusive positions. This inclusivity not only accounts for technological advancements which have altered the way young Malaysians negotiate web content but recognises as-yet undiscovered ways through which communities make meaning in their day-to-day living.


Read more @