A Reading Society

His Majesty the King of Bhutan has officially declared 2015 as the National Reading Year in the country. It is exciting and an appropriate year to mark Reading Year dedicated to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th Birth Anniversary. And the event has inspired many schools in the country to approach reading from various angles and with numerous innovative activities.

School is a place where we breed reading habit in our children. Some say home is where it begins, but I think school is where it all starts. And therefore, I see teachers playing critical role in cultivating this crucial habit in our children. Importance of reading can never be understated.

Until recently, in Bhutan reading is equated with difficult chores. Some even brand it punishment having to read a book. As a result, not many of us in Bhutan grow up loving to read. At schools students read books under so much pressure instead of seeing it as enjoyable activity. And most teachers do not read themselves. The National Reading Year is expected to change all that forever as students and teachers are inspired to read. If reading becomes a fashion now, we would become a reading society one day when everyone spends time reading books.

Coming from a farming background, I was rather good at reading the signs in the clouds in the sky or the falling tree-leaves or singing cuckoos. I did not develop the habit so easily. It came with so much effort. And even today I still struggle to finish some books that I have started to read. I assume most Bhutanese fall in the same trap. That’s not generalization by the way.

Reading Year is timely and comes at a time when social media is sucking our time and energy. People would rather spend time chatting with their friends on Facebook than reading a book. Thus, the National Reading Year would pay us a big dividend.

And good thing is, it is only the beginning of many good things and building blocks to a reading society. I see all schools in the country continuing their wonderful efforts in promoting reading in their schools. They have done great things to encourage their children to read and we hope that they continue with the same level of effort and enthusiasm year after year. We also need support for such activities to flow in from all directions like it is happening now.

Reading is a habit. But more than anything it is an essential skill. And the kind of books an individual reads certainly defines him/her. It is heartening to know that today more and more Bhutanese are becoming avid readers. It is clear from many fora and the sort of discussions that ensue in those groups.

Opinion by Nawang P phuntsho

The writer works in an NGO and lives in Thimphu