Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has issued a decree making April 21 every year as Vietnam Book Day to promote the culture of reading and in recognition of the efforts of book authors, publishers and distributors in Vietnam. "The Vietnam Book Day held for the first time this year aims to reinforce the culture of reading, particularly among the young people in Vietnam, who are greatly impacted by the booming information technology (IT) development, plunging them into the audio-video entertainments and ignoring the value of reading in our modern life," said Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Bac Son at the ceremony held in capital Hanoi on Saturday to announce the Prime Minister's decision.
To implement the decision, series of activities were conducted nationwide from Saturday to next Wednesday, including book fairs, presentation of new titles, exchange between famous authors and their readers.
In recent years, the phrase "reading culture" has been mentioned a lot by many Vietnamese people from all walks of life, particularly book compilers and educationists, who said that the traditional thirst of learning, including love for reading among the juniors, seemed to have been eroded. "For decades, from general schools to universities, less attention has been paid to promote reading among pupils and students, selecting suitable books to read, and how to read books in the most effective way. These three factors are the key points of the so-called reading culture," said Vietnamese professor and reputed educationist Chu Hao.
"Reading is one of the best ways to help people relax, accumulate know-how, and improve a person's capacity to think. Only through reading and thinking can people increase their knowledge. However, the young generation seems to neglect reading," commented Nguyen Kiem, vice president of the Vietnam Publishers' Association (VPA).
Vietnam has more than 60 publishers nationwide, one national library, 63 city/provincial level libraries, and thousands of community libraries. There are also many private libraries and book collectors. In 2013, nearly 25,000 book titles with 274 million copies were published, compared with 16,500 titles and nearly 190 million copies in 2012.
But results from VPA's recent survey showed that on the average, each year one Vietnamese reads less than one book from the library.
Another survey by the Vietnam Institute of Social Science at some universities in Hanoi revealed that only about 10 percent of students living in college dormitories, and 20 percent living with their families at home, read daily newspapers and books regularly.
In response to the question if he/she reads books daily, many young Vietnamese said "no," adding that they prefer to access the Internet, listen to music or go out for entertainment. Some said that they were busy taking care of their children.
Lan Anh, a first year student at Hanoi University, told Xinhua that she used to love reading, especially literary novels, but since she entered college, she spent less time on reading. "Reading textbooks and other materials as part of my course is enough for me," Lan Anh said, adding that if she has time, she prefers to e-reading on the Internet.
But 21-year-old Do Phuong, a third year student of the Vietnam Academy of Diplomacy, told Xinhua that she loved reading since she was a little girl, and still maintains the habit up to now. She said she has encouraged her younger brother to also read.
"My love for reading has been instilled in me by my mother since I was young. When I was a kid, on the weekend my mother used to take me to the bookstores to buy books as gifts for me," Phuong said, adding that she spends at least an hour a day for reading, either on printed or e-books.
Phuong said that since it is the global trend, e-books will further develop in Vietnam. "But absolutely it can't replace printed books and I will keep on reading printed books," she added.
Ta Duc, a 60-year-old ethnologist, said that because of the advances of technology, there should be a close coordination among authors, publishers, relevant agencies, schools and the entire society in reinforcing the culture of reading.
Duc is the author and co-author for dozens of titles published over the past 10 years, including his latest 900-page book on the origin of the Viet and Muong ethnic groups in Vietnam issued to the public in late 2013.