BASED on a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) report, Malaysia’s literacy rate stands at 94.64 per cent, which is very high according to the standard of measurement set by the Unesco Institute for Statistics.
The Adult and Youth Literacy: National Regional and Global Trends report published in 2016 stated that out of 85 per cent of Malaysians who read regularly, 77 per cent preferred newspapers, three per cent read magazines, three per cent read books and 1.6 per cent read comics.
There is a lot of room for improvement in trying to attain a literacy rate of 99 per cent by 2020 and enhance the quality of material read.
The International Journal of Research in Social Sciences highlighted that in Malaysia, the mainstream readers are students perusing books for examinations rather than knowledge and pleasure.
The habit of reading in the country has deteriorated with the prevalence of digital devices, which the young find much easier to access compared to books.
University of Malaya, for instance, is improving access to reading materials at the tertiary institution. Acting chief librarian Mahbob Yusof said as technology and trends keep changing, reading methods and mediums have also evolved, moving away from printed books to electronic, digital, web and social media platforms which are extensively used by students to read, write as well as communicate.
“Online learning has been made simpler and fun with graphical content and multimedia which are interactive and animated with videos and sound effects.
“The Internet has become the crux of students’ experiences in learning. They go to the library not only to refer to the collection but also to access the Internet. They enjoy reading online as well as socialising virtually.”
The 2016/2017 university statistics showed that 189,000 books were borrowed from the library and more than 600,000 visits to a network of libraries were recorded.
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Mary Kuok Pick Hoo Library acting director Ang Suan Sim said undergraduates prefer to read online using the smartphone and tablet, which are convenient and mobile-friendly.
However, some do go to the library to read the hard copy of newspapers and magazines, and reference books.
Universiti Teknologi MARA chief librarian Noor Hidayat Adnan said digital and electronic medium and resources are the trend as they are interactive and save paper. “Technologies such as augmented reality offer an interactive experience of a real-world environment.”
In Malaysia, he added, those who are less information technology-literate still read printed materials.
Senior librarian Mohd Alfarabie Mohd Nasir at PerpustakaanTun Abdul Razak (PTAR), UiTM Shah Alam, said undergraduates read books for academic purposes.
“They read fiction when they are not busy with assignments and exams,” he added. “To enhance reading habits, there should be more book promotions on social media.”
Ang feels many students do read but prefer light reading material as they want information fast and at their convenience.
“With the influence of digital technology, students are resorting to iPads and smartphones to read e-books and daily news online,” she said.
Campaigns to promote reading as a cool and fun activity by popular icons of the country can highlight the significance of reading.
“Youths especially are easily influenced by mass and social media. If they see posters or images — at the bus stop and in the train — of their idols reading, then perhaps it should be taken to the next level and be perceived as something exciting and rewarding,” said Mahbob.
Noor Hidayat added that students should not only read to pass examinations. “Parents must foster a reading habit from childhood and support reading encouragement programmes at libraries,” said Noor Hidayat.
Some undergraduates are so focused on their academic performance that they neglect reading other genres.
“To overcome this, offer more choices of books and raise awareness of the importance of reading to enhance knowledge,” said Mohd Alfarabie.
At UM, the management has initiated many activities to instil good reading habits. These include a reader-friendly environment, a listing of newly purchased books on the library website and a display of new and interesting items in the collection.
The library also organises reading-related activities and promotes these events on social media.
To encourage reading, teachers and family members must motivate students to read and make it a daily habit.
“It is important to discuss current events, world news and latest books during meal times to encourage reading and updates on the latest,” added Ang.
At Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Sungai Long campus, more than 275,000 volumes of books, publications and online resources catering to all programmes of studies and different types of fiction are available.
“Students can recommend books for the library to purchase. Their input is taken into consideration collectively when we buy books.”
The library provides access to online resources 24/7, on and off-campus. Bookings and loans of library books can be done online.
The library has a spacious and conducive reading environment in a cosy corner with a sofa, private discussion rooms and a variety of conference papers, magazines, journals and newspapers, both online and print versions.
“We conduct the Library Information Skills Programme every trimester to help students optimise the use of library resources.
“We collaborate with publishers and companies to promote reading through activities such as book fairs, exhibitions, talks and workshops on research, and how to get published in international peer-reviewed journals.”
During Language Week, the library partners with the faculties to promote the habit of reading and use of the English language.
Noor Hidayat said libraries must be visible and approachable in providing services and materials.
“At PTAR, students attend talks by book publishers.
“Certain areas for studies have been upgraded and students are rewarded for their participation such as the highest borrower award.
“PTAR Mobile apps help users to search online articles anywhere at any time,” he added.
The apps can be downloaded via App Store or browse https://digitalcampus.uitm.edu.my/. Features include “What’s On” (library calendar), “Info Caster” (a search on library resources) and latest announcements.
UiTM Shah Alam holds programmes such as Jom Baca 10 Minit and Bedah Buku, and promotes new books on Facebook and Twitter.
“We organise book fairs at the library, with special prices for students,” said Mohd Alfarabie.
Ang added that courses on mind mapping and speed reading make reading more fun while English Language lecturers can include monthly book reviews and oral presentations as assignments to instil good reading habits and inculcate critical thinking.
Reading habits can be improved by making students aware of what they are missing out when they do not read widely. Students need to stay abreast of the changing landscape of their future profession to have competitive edge.
“Sessions to enhance reading skills should be held for students,” said Mahbob.
“There is an allocation for reading materials covering a broad range of genres including fiction, biography, self-improvement, motivation and entrepreneurship.
“We have increased the number of books on loan in addition to extending the loan period. We also provide other reading formats such as Kindle and audio books apart from the conventional reading medium.”
Sumber diperolehi daripada New Strait Times Online.