Reading is one of my favorite things to do. To sit down, open, and smell a new book is one of my greatest pleasures. Books take my imagination to amazing places. Books display the experiences and thoughts of their authors; books translate what authors observe in society, and what they feel. You can learn so much just by sitting on your couch with a good book in your hands.
According to UNESCO, Mexicans read 2.8 books a year. Our country is in second to last on a list of how much reading is done by the citizens in 108 countries. In Spain they read 7.5 books a year and in Germany, 12. Only 2% of the Mexican population has the lifelong habit of reading. They really don’t know what they are missing.
The question we need to ask is: why do these individuals not read? Perhaps one of the reasons is because in Mexico there is only one library per 15,000 inhabitants and one bookstore for every 200,000 inhabitants, according to the National Reading Survey. Also, books are too expensive for a country where 52 million people are living in poverty. Their income is not enough to cover basic needs such as food, health, education, shelter, clothing or public transportation, much less buying a book. Felipe Rosete, director of the publisher Sexto Piso, commented: “most people do not read because they don’t have access to books or someone who pushes them into the habit; many don’t have the possibility to go to school or to eat, that makes a book really far away from their outlook, for them, books are associated with middle and upper classes”. While there are books with low prices, many Mexicans still have to choose between feeding their mind or their body. The answer to this dilemma is unsatisfactory, but also obvious: most choose to nourish their body.
Another reason is 41% of Mexicans spend their free time watching TV, or surfing the web. According to comScore, after Brazil, Mexico has the largest number of Internet users, with 24 million people connected to the Internet. Statistics show that Mexicans read less every year, threatened by digital distractions such as social networks, television, and the Internet. There is a risk that books in Mexico will only be used as decorations, or will entirely disappear.
Obviously, the government should do something about the lack of public libraries to help promote the habit of reading, but even more importantly, we have to do something about the issue.
Even with campaigns showing football players, singers and television stars promoting the habit of reading; if no one at home, in the classroom, or in our circle of friends, promotes reading, students won’t choose to miss their favorite soap opera in favor of reading a book. Reading is a learned pleasure and a habit that is acquired under the influence of others.
There are many reasons why Mexicans don’t read, but there are even more reasons why they should read. Reading enables us to reflect, discern, encourage creativity and critical thinking. A society that doesn’t read is misinformed, ignorant and the people are more easily manipulated.
It is very important to introduce Mexicans to the habit of reading, so they can make informed, intelligent decisions, and leave misconceptions behind. Once they realize what they have been missing, they won’t be able to put the books down.
By Alejandra Ruibal Pavlovich, a former Intern at the WYA Latin America office