You may have heard of those statistics saying that Romanians rank last in Europe with regard to reading. No matter how unpleasant, this is reality. Some say it's just manipulation, an anti-marketing strategy, aimed at having us look bad in Europe, but a study carried out by the World Bank this year, in March, shows that one Romanian reads, on average, less than five minutes per day, and reading a whole book in one year is a rare event. 35% of the Romanians say that have never read a book, although there are numberless studies showing that reading helps an individual's harmonious development, helps reduce stress and it also contributes to economic and social development. The World Bank has shown that higher literacy rates are associated with a healthier population, lower crime rates and bigger economic growth rates.
It looks like Romanians' relationship with books started to deteriorate 10 years after the anti-Communist Revolution of December 1989 and the new generations' interest in reading has dropped dramatically. Who is to blame and what can be done, given that it has been scientifically demonstrated that reading helps develop a young person's cognitive capacities?
We asked journalist Marina Constantinoiu, an expert in the field, who also teaches at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication, how can young people's lack of interest in reading be explained?
"Unfortunately, the relationship between students and reading in general, with or without connection to the Internet age, is quite bad, and this is not something new, it's been going on for 25 years now, because, perhaps, the first years after the 1989 revolution were a bit more generous with regard to reading. The Internet can be blamed, but on the other hand, it is not the only reason and not even the most serious. I think that the main problem is in the family, because the family is the one that does not encourage the child to read or tolerates the child's inability to read. I don't know if we are all born with an interest in reading, I know that for my generation, this is something that has been cultivated in the family. I think now it's a matter of national emergency, because we are in a very bad situation with regard to reading. And this can be seen in the severe poverty of the vocabulary people nowadays use to communicate."
Reading, as a daily habit, builds and strengthens neuronal connections at any age, not only in children and young adults. Values such as education, respect for books or teachers have started to disappear. Unless we want to seriously damage our national identity, we should declare this a national emergency, Marina Constantinoiu believes:
"I used to be a student myself and I now I'm teaching and I usually like to talk to my students outside class. I try to find out what their passions are, if they read and how much. Lately, however, unfortunately, I didn't have to ask, because it has become obvious. I can guess how much their read from the way in which they write their projects and the way in which they look at a longer text, because working on it translates into a lot of boredom on their part. Many are terrified at the thought of having to read a long text, think about it, understand it and write something about it."
It is vitally important for the family, no matter their own education, to cultivate in children the respect for and interest in reading. Without knowledge, without learning from books, is like starting a trip with an empty bag. And this is never good, Marina Constantinoiu says:
"Reading as a habit is usually something for those age above 40, and I am in this category, I feel like a dinosaur, but it's not normal to be like that. I think that it should start in the family and reading should be an obligation, imposed gently. Because reading is what forms one as a person. I say that to many children who frown when they hear about reading more in high-school, because these are the most rebellious years. No matter the field of work you choose, you cannot start the trip with no information, and the proper vocabulary that one can acquire only through reading. It doesn't matter how we call them: words, information, ideas, metaphors, it doesn't matter. What is important is to have them and use them in life."
In conclusion, it's important to encourage our children to read. To help them discover the joy of stopping for a while every day and just read. It's definitely rewarding in the long run. (MI)