Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Culture of Reading

Since the beginning of this year, this blog has turned into something I'd never imagined before. It's become more stable, with recurring features as well as fixed scheduling. It also seems to stick with a monthly theme. Although it's all great and inspiring, sometimes I really just have random thoughts running around and it's somewhat lost its place on my blog. Therefore, I've decided to let November be theme-free, to let me write about anything I want. Don't worry, it will all be hard-hitting topics that I really care about. Hope you like it!

Growing up, all I've ever known was reading. It has become on of my passions since I was little, even when I didn't realise it. I can recall as far back as the second grade when my love for libraries started. Since then on, no matter where I live, I cannot stay away. However, it seems that not everyone around me shares the same feelings about this. Rarely do I find people who love reading as much as - if not more than - I do. Although it seems like the trend of reading has skyrocketed in the last decade, book stores still run the risk of shutting down. Especially with the rise of the internet and handheld gadgets. Most people prefer reading threads and watching film adaptations to flipping through the pages of a book.  

With more and more film adapted from popular books, you would think more people will be interested in reading them. Ironically, it actually makes people read less books - especially when the adaptation is already top-notch. The sales of the books might raise from the existence of the film. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that these books will later on be read by the buyers. In fact, some people that I know are guilty of purchasing these exemplars only to display them on their shelves, unread and collecting dust. This explains why bookstores can be crowded with people, yet libraries are as empty as the cemetery. In Indonesia, especially, most people don't make it a habit to visit the local libraries, regarding them as horrible. Of course, since we're a developing country, we don't have the majestic buildings foreign libraries seem to have. But this creates a devil's circle: less people go to libraries → libraries go untended → less people go to libraries. So why don't we break the chain?

But why? Why don't more people read? Some of them find the task too tedious, some others claim not to have the time to do so. Some others are simply more interested in other mindless activities. But, when you think about it, reading can be a lot of fun. You can start wherever you want, reading topics that are close to your heart. It can be a way for you to pass time by when you're commuting, per se, or when you're waiting in line in a doctor's office. Since it requires no electricity or internet connection, you can do it as a last resort as well. Not only do you get to entertain yourself, you also gain information you've never known before. This isn't strictly for non-fiction either - plenty of fiction books have proven helpful in my life. So why don't we read more often?

Because less and less people enjoy reading and consider it helpful - as opposed to earning money, for example - they also feel like education is overrated. Who needs to study when you can work, instead? Why look for higher education when you can apply for a job? However, education means knowledge, which is crucial in today's day and age. The reason why the government and terrorist leaders can get away with what they do, is because the public are so little informed that they do not re-evaluate what is being given to them. Don't they know that books are weapons? They contain information and information is power. As long as you have information, you will be safe. As long as you have information, you can win. So why don't we read more often?

At the beginning of last month, I volunteered for Jakarta Kumpul Buku, a small organisation who collects books from donators and deliver them to small libraries across the country. These libraries ("Taman Bacaan" in Indonesian, literally means "Reading Gardens") are targeted for less fortunate/impoverished people, children and adults alike. The president of the organisation told me about the incredibly positive reaction the children give whenever the libraries open for the day. Their excitement and eagerness to learn touch my heart, especially noting their limited access to books altogether. But they love to read and they take good care of the books. They make me feel hopeful about the future of this country, of this world.

So why can't we, who are fortunate enough to have more access to books, love and care for them too? Why can't we make reading a habit as well? There are tons of ways to do so. If you don't have the money to buy books, you can always borrow from the library. If you can't find a library, you can always borrow from friends or colleagues. With the rise of technology, it is also possible for us to read them through a handheld device to make it easier for us. In some countries, there are even library boxes, where you can put a book in and take a book out. What are you waiting for? Grab a book today!

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