According to a survey on public book reading last year announced by the Culture, Tourism and Sports Ministry in July, the book reading ratio of public school students was 89.1 percent, far higher than that of adults (72.2 percent). The book reading ratio refers to a citizen reading at least one general book. Public school students read an annual average of 28 books, more than double that of adults (11.9 books).
Notably, elementary school students read 51.6 books a year, more than four times that of adults. Adults cited their busy schedule as the most common reason for not reading books, but experts say the real reason is lack of a book reading habit. As such, elementary school students reading more books than adults seem promising.
The volume of books read by Korean elementary school students is smaller than that read by their Japanese counterparts, however. Japanese elementary school students read 91 books on average per year as of early 2000. The number of books they borrowed from public libraries also reached as many as 35.9 books as of 2007. The Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday that such book-reading fever was the result of legislation that required deployment of a librarian teacher per school in 1997, and a morning book reading campaign that made students read books for 10 minutes after arriving at school every morning.
A librarian teacher refers to someone in charge of managing and operating resources and materials at school libraries. Korea also enacted a law to introduce a librarian teacher last year but this came about 10 years later than Japan. Regular librarian teachers with Grade 1 and 2 licenses only totaled 625 nationwide, a figure too small for the 11,220 school libraries across the nation. Many schools appoint regular teachers to double as librarians or recruit parents as honorary librarian teachers. To ensure a systematic book-reading education, it is essential that Korea continue to increase the number of regular librarian teachers with expertise.
The book-reading campaign requiring students to read books in the morning or after school was initially implemented at select schools in Korea. The campaign, however, has been introduced at almost all schools from this year. The Education, Science and Technology Ministry recently began a project to link public libraries in Daegu, Mokpo and Gimhae with school libraries on a trial basis to allow students to more conveniently access public libraries nationwide. It is highly commendable that educational authorities and schools have rolled up their sleeves to promote book reading by students. What is really important, however, is the home environment. All parents must have the mindset that they are librarian teachers, and redouble efforts to educate their children about book-reading.
Editorial Writer Lee Jin-nyong (firstname.lastname@example.org)