Reading is a part of everyone’s life. Either by reading a text or a 1000-page book in a couple days. Choosing a genre that calls you until the last page or even finding the money and time to support this hobby are the challenging parts.
Even if you don’t realise it, you are consuming literature. Think about movies: probably your favourite movie comes from a book, if not a trilogy because everything needs a written base to work properly. Bestsellers such as The Lord of the Rings, The Shinning or even Harry Potter were made into famous movies all around the world.
Different genres appeal to other people. For example, Carolina Fontes, 19 years old, began as a novel lover. “I have a very romantic personality, and most novels are filled with female power that other books don’t have”, she said.
The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson is one of Carolina’s favourite novels. “The story is captivating and makes you read it non-stop; the book is filled with plot twists, family secrets and lies, so you never know what waits for you on the next page”, she declared. “It almost resembles a thrill, a psychological horror”.
Carolina has recently moved on to books about Portuguese politics, so she could explore the history of her country and found her favourite book: O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis by José Saramago, one of the best-known Portuguese writers. “Is completely genial”, she exclaimed. “He was able to mix information, romance and facts while remaining politically impartial and captivating our attention at every word”, Carolina said. In fact, she likes the book so much that she even convinced her boyfriend to read it. “He always read a bit but slowly lost the habit”, Carolina answered. “When we started dating, I borrowed him the O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis, and he gave me another one; now, swapping books constantly is our thing”.
Having a taste for reading can be stimulated in many ways. For Carolina, her family had a crucial role. “My dad and sister read a lot”, she said. “We have a huge shelf in the hallway filled with books, and each one of us has their own library in our rooms”, she added.
Books and social media don’t have a good relationship. Fernando Rodrigues, a 67-year-old Portuguese man, thinks that the new generation spends too much time looking at the screens and not enough time holding a paper. Fernando Rodrigues, a 67-year-old Portuguese man, shares this same opinion. “Nowadays, if you are on the train, there’s maybe one person per carriage reading something, but the rest is on their phones”, he said.
“Of course, they could be reading something online, maybe a book or even a tabloid, but, if that’s true, it’s still not even close to the number of people who used to read on public transport 10 years ago”, Fernando expressed, concerned. An inquiry showed that 61% of the Portuguese population didn’t read one book over the last year, but this is a problem on a global scale. In 2020, a study showed that only one in three kids enjoy reading.
So, the younger generation doesn’t read because it’s too busy surfing online. Ironically, sometimes people start to read to stay away from the internet because overuse makes them anxious and end up by discovering a whole new world. For example, Ena Teglovic, a 20-year-old Croatian student, loves reading fantasy as an “escapism”. “When I was young, my parents forbid me to watch TV, so I had to find a new hobby”, and her journey across magical worlds and imaginary creatures began. Now, Ena keeps reading fantasy to escape from reality for a few hours.
As happened to Ena and Carolina, it’s possible to influence this hobby. The problem begins when the influence turns into an obligation. “When we are forced to read, we immediately stop liking it even without opening the book”, Carolina said. “First I read O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis it was in high school, and I hated it because it was a mandatory reading”, she declared. “Years later, my family insisted for me to reread it, and now it’s my favourite book ever”.
There’s the argument that books are expensive and not everyone has the power to keep on feeding another addiction. Still, according to Carolina, money shouldn’t be an excuse. “We can always go to a public library; there are tons of books online”, she says. Fernando also shares this opinion. “There are books in second hand being sold for a symbolic price, readers groups, there’s always another option”, he stated.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s hard to find specific books in public libraries, especially if they are new releases. Even there, depending on the location, libraries might not have all sections, for example, horror. It’s also difficult for people in rural areas to have access to places where they can find free books or even have a stable internet connection to access them.
Literature, and reading in general, is vital as it changes peoples’ perspectives about diverse subjects. In addition, it helps to break stereotypes and connect people. “We create new thoughts, new ideas and even workout our brain, which is important”, Carolina said. “Instead of scrolling on the phone for eyes, we can always read a book which is more helpful”, she concluded.
Now, if reading is so important, is it developed enough by the educational system, either locally or globally? According to Carolina, Fernando and Ena, both Portugal and Croatia are doing a good job. “We have fantastic pieces in the program on the subject of Portuguese” and “we had to read a lot in Croatian language subjects” are Carolina and Ena’s opinions’, respectively.
The interest in literature is still declining, so what can be done? Mandatory imposition doesn’t work, but slowly introducing the fiction to children to create a society more interested in culture might work. “Instead of offering clothes and especially toys to kids, that you know they have more than enough, give them a book”, Fernando said. “It might awaken their curiosity and make them fall in love with the written way in the same way that happened to me”, he commented.
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