Read­ing cul­ture in Bhutan im­prov­ing, say ob­servers

Business Bhutan - - Nation - San­gay Dema from Thim­phu

The only pub­lic li­brary in the cap­i­tal, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Pub­lic Li­brary has gar­nered over 4,000 reg­is­tered mem­bers within a span of 40 years.

Since the read­ing year was ini­ti­ated in 2013, the li­brary and a hand­ful of book­stores have tried to keep the read­ing cul­ture alive.

For in­stance, Junc­tion book­store gets 3-20 cus­tomers daily.

Al­though very few ac­tu­ally buy books, it is a pop­u­lar hangout for youth.

Junc­tion’s owner Kun­zang Choki said that when the read­ing year was ini­ti­ated and with it nu­mer­ous aware­ness pro­grams, stu­dents bought books as birth­day gifts but the num­ber of book buy­ers has de­clined for now.

“We have a small read­ing com­mu­nity, less read­ers but they are the vo­ra­cious read­ers”, said Kun­zang Choki.

Lack of in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­i­ties con­tinue to be the big­gest chal­lenge for the pub­lic li­brary whereas for pri­vate book­stores, the flow of cus­tomers de­pends on sea­sons caus­ing it to fluc­tu­ate.

How­ever, when there are read­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and months marked in var­i­ous schools, the book sales go up.

The book stores in town sell very lim­ited choices of books there­fore it could be one of the rea­sons why read­ers are in­dif­fer­ent, she said.

Kun­zang Choki also added that read­ers do not get the books they want be­cause a new re­lease sells out fast and when the books do not ar­rive on time they end up or­der­ing on­line.

The pub­lic li­brary has ini­ti­ated a mo­bile bus book ev­ery Sat­ur­day for an hour and ev­ery Sun­day for three to four hours mak­ing books ac­ces­si­ble to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in Thim­phu.

Com­pared to ear­lier years, the li­brary has seen an in­crease in its mem­ber­ship of stu­dents.

The li­brary also con­ducts var­i­ous com­pe­ti­tions for read­ing, writ­ing and draw­ing an­nu­ally to at­tract read­ers.

“To im­prove the read­ing habits in the so­ci­ety, we must cre­ate new in­fra­struc­ture and give a facelift to the ex­ist­ing ones,” said the li­brary in­charge, Tsh­er­ing Phuntsho.

The mem­bers of the pub­lic li­brary can sug­gest new books but the procur­ing books is a cum­ber­some process and at times takes more than a year.

Or­der­ing books from a third coun­try is also and dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive due to heavy tax­a­tion.

The pub­lic li­brary at­tracts 14-30 read­ers min­i­mum and 100- 250 max­i­mum.

The schools are also try­ing to pro­mote the read­ing cul­ture in their own ways.

Lungten­phu Lower Sec­ondary School con­ducts a read­ing month an­nu­ally where the stu­dents are made to read books for 10-15 min­utes daily be­fore classes start. .

The prin­ci­pal of Lungten­phu Lower Sec­ondary School, Lha­gay Tsh­er­ing, said that the Bhutanese lack read­ing habits and it is a must for stu­dents to read. “It is also equally im­por­tant to cre­ate aware­ness on the im­por­tance of read­ing.”

Tsh­er­ing Phuntsho, a class XII stu­dent of Yangchen­phug Higher Sec­ondary School feels that the read­ing cul­ture in Bhutan is im­prov­ing es­pe­cially in schools.

“We have many ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to lit­er­a­ture, mag­a­zine writ­ing, speak­ing and read­ing, which di­rectly pro­mote read­ing habits,” he said.

Tsh­er­ing Phuntsho is an avid reader who said that he learns a lot through books that are not in­cluded in the school syl­labus.

The gen­eral lit­er­acy rate of Bhutan is 66% and youth lit­er­acy rate 93.1% ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Statis­tics Bu­reau, 2017.

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