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Who Reads Anymore?

I have a teaching friend in Italy who has spent every Saturday for the past few years working in a bookshop. She tells me that her hours have been cut recently simply because no one is reading books anymore.

“Once upon a time the shop would employ seven full time staff. Now it’s down to two. I’m just there on Saturdays to help out but I spend most of my time tidying the place up. We sell more guide books to tourists than anything else.”

My friend was talking to me in the wake of revelations from ISTAT (the Italian national statistics agency) who released a report this week showing that in 2014 almost 60% of Italians over the age of 6 did NOT read a single book for pleasure during the year.

Reading for Pleasure

There is overwhelming evidence that literacy skills help people get on better in life with increased career prospects and a correlation between reading skills and income, so it’s vitally important that reading be encouraged. Parents who read with their children, books around the house for anyone to pick up, a general atmosphere where reading is encouraged…

In her classroom my friend does what she can. She encourages reading for pleasure amongst her students and has persuaded her DoS to set up a lending library where students (many of whom are from poorer backgrounds) can freely borrow books in English. She has donated many of her own English books to this and whenever friends visit her from back home she makes sure they bring a couple of books over to leave behind.

“Introducing children to reading is like giving them a whole new world,” she says. “Many students look at reading as a chore, as work. But I hope to show them that reading is a pleasure and that even though they’re reading in English, they’re doing it for enjoyment and not simply to learn for school.”

While in Italy the figure for non-readers hovers around 60%, in the US and UK the figure is around 24% and even this much lower figure raises concerns amongst educationalists and government.

“Meanwhile in Italy,” says my friend, “nothing much is being done.”

ISTAT Statistics

The newly released statistics in Italy for 2014 show:

  • only 41% of Italians read at least one book for pleasure outside school or work
  • 48% of women read at least 1 book for pleasure per year; 35% of men did
  • only with teenagers did more than 50% read a book for pleasure
  • 10% of families did not have a book in their house
  • 64% had less than 100 books

Useful Links

Reading for Pleasure‏‎ – how to encourage reading for pleasure with your TEFL class

ISTAT Official Statistics – for reading in 2014

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