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Kids should be encouraged to explore wonders of books: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-04-16 20:59


Many people around the world know of an old Spanish knight tilting at windmills and the blood of guilt that a Scottish noblewoman cannot wipe from her hands. Although written with a feather hundreds of years ago such scenes still speak to us today amid the incessant barrage of instantly forgettable images and text.

In one of those quirks of fate on which many a memorable tale is told, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, the respective creators of these characters, died on the same day, April 23, the day now celebrated as World Book Day.

Reading might be one of the few activities that in essence has remained unchanged from the days when ideograms were first inscribed on tortoise shells and animal bones to the e-books of today. It has always been a private interaction between the reader and writer, who in many cases live in different times and live in disparate places.

Throughout history, people have learned knowledge, drawn inspiration and reaped enlightenment from books. An important reason for China having one of the longest civilizations is that thousands of books, with the earliest dating back more than 2,000 years, have been read and valued by generation after generation.

Books have been the means by which the cultural norms and behavior codes have served as the foundation for the country's social, economic and political systems, which have been transmitted throughout dozens of dynasties.

And the influx of books and ideas from foreign countries in the early 20th century and the 1980s prompted the country to bid farewell to its imperial and feudal society, and embrace reform and opening-up respectively.

Standing on the threshold of a new era, the country is making unswerving efforts to promote reading nationwide, a goal that has been written into the Government Work Report as a national strategy since 2013.

Over the past 10 years, the percentage of the adult population reading books has risen from 52 percent to about 80 percent. A total of 1.1 billion books have been put on the shelves of more than 600,000 rural reading rooms, most of which have been built over the past five years across the country.

Despite this, there is still a long way to go for China to build a learning society. There is one library for about 400,000 Chinese nationals on average, in contrast with 2,500 people in the United States and hundreds of people in many European countries.

Chinese people read about 7.99 books, including e-books, a year on average, which is only the quarterly or even monthly average of some nationalities. And the amount of time they spend on reading each day is less than one-third of the time they spend surfing online.

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