NE Book Fair 2019: Vice President Expresses Concern Over Decline In Reading Habit Among Youngsters

M Venkaiah Naidu stressed the need to inculcate the practice of reading from a young age

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বছৰত কমেও ১০০ দিন চলিব লাগে সংসদ : ভেংকায়া নাইডু
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The Vice President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu on November 1st, 2019, expressed concern over the decline in book-reading habit, especially among the young people, and called upon the educational institutions and the academia, to inculcate the practice of reading from a very young age.

Inaugurating the 21st North East Book Fair organized by the All Assam Publishers and Booksellers Association (AAPBA) in Guwahati, the VP said that students must be encouraged to look at reading as a fun activity rather than a chore.

“With the advent of the internet, children prefer to search online for information rather than rely on books. Reading books, especially stories, is no longer the norm. Children prefer watching videos online,” he added.

Urging parents to serve as role models to their children and read books themselves so that the children emulate them, Naidu suggested that schools must setup reading camps and workshops.

Besides, Naidu observed that books have the power to inspire and motivate us with stories of people who have fought against odds to succeed. “Books have the power to stir our creativity and stimulate innovative and inventive ideas,” he added.

He also suggested that book fairs should also be conducted at regular intervals in every district to promote reading habit. At the same time, there was also a need to promote quality books in terms of content.

Full text of the speech

“I am delighted to be present at the grand opening of the 21st North East Book Fair, being held under the aegis of All Assam Publishers & Bookseller’s Association, in the beautiful city of Guwahati.

I extend my heartiest congratulations to the organizers of this mega book fair!

I am happy to know that it is one of the largest book fairs and also known as the ‘People’s book fair’ because of the popularity and support it enjoys among the people of this region.

I am told that the focal theme of the book fair is ‘Missing Tribes’ and that the book fair is dedicated to the memory of ‘Tabu Ram Taid’, an eminent scholar, a distinguished educationist and a brilliant researcher.

I am glad to note that the North East Book Fair since its inception has been striving hard to popularise the culture, literature, heritage and ethnic tribes of the seven states of the northeastern region.

Assam –the very mention of this name brings to one’s mind the delightful blend of culture, heritage, faiths and beliefs of the myriad ethnic tribes and sub-tribes residing in this region.

The natural beauty of the state, its soulful music, its poignant literature, its delectable cuisine and its stunning art forms are all interwoven into its social fabric and permeate all barriers of caste, creed and religion.

Blessed by the ‘Kamakhya Devi’, this beautiful land, a little paradise on rocky terrain is the land of Srimanta Sankardeva, the father of Assamese culture, who was a saint scholar, poet, playwright, social-religious reformer. The 22 Satras founded by Sankaradeva for the propagation of Vaishnavaite religion and culture are still thriving in the tiny riverine island of Majuli, another natural wonder of the state.

This is also the land of Lakhsminath Bezbaroa, the celebrated pioneer of modern Assamese literature, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, noted Assamese playwright, Lyricist, Poet, writer and filmmaker, considered as an Assamese cultural icon, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, a genius lyricist , musician, singer, poet and a filmmaker, widely known as “Sudhakantha”, who was honoured with “Bharat Ratna” posthumously and many more such iconic personalities.

This Book Fair being held today is a befitting tribute to Assam’s love for language, literature and culture and I am confident that the book lovers of the region will collectively make this fair a resounding success.

My dear Sisters and brothers,

We are a civilization that, since time immemorial accorded a divine status to letter – a status equivalent to that of God.

India’s tryst with books and literature is almost as old as the 5000-year-old civilization itself. We always considered it of paramount importance to record knowledge.

The Harappan people knew how to write; unfortunately, their script has not been deciphered. Sanskrit dominated, first in its Vedic and later in its classical form in Indian literature.

From the Vedas, which are the most ancient forms of literature in India to our great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, to our scientific texts like Charakasamhita, and Aryabhatiya, we have a repository of an astounding wealth of the written word.

India represents the largest democracy with a seamless picture of diversity in unity, perhaps unparalleled anywhere in the world. India’s physical, ethnic and linguistic variety is as staggering as its cultural pluralism, which exists in a framework of interconnectedness. The tremendous diversity that exists in our culture, heritage, traditions, our styles of art, architecture, music and dance is reflected in our literature as well.

From ancient Indian literature to contemporary forms, India has been and still is home to hundreds of talented writers and gifted poets and I am sure that this legacy of literary brilliance will be kept alive by generations of writers to come.

My dear sisters and brothers,

Books are informative, illuminative and inspiring and they are our best companions, counsellors and change agents.

Books help widen our horizons. The more we read books, the more we understand the world around us and discover life beyond what we already know.

Reading enhances our language skills and develops fluency, allowing us to express our thoughts and ideas better and hence we become much better communicators.

Books quench our thirst for knowledge. Through books, we comprehend history, understand different cultures and lifestyles and even learn new languages. Books open our minds to new ideas.

Reading also keeps one’s brain healthy by improving our cognitive function and memory. It helps improve focus and aids the development of analytical skills.

Books have the power to inspire and motivate us with stories of people who have fought against odds to succeed. Whether it is the journey of a fictional character or the real-life achievements of a historical figure, books encourage us to stay positive and keep moving forward.

Books have the power to stir our creativity and stimulate innovative and inventive ideas.

My dear sisters and brothers,

The Library Movement that flourished in different parts of the nation has played a critical role in the socio-cultural renaissance of India. In addition to spreading literacy and education, our public libraries also played a part in safeguarding democracy and promoting peace, culture and brotherhood.

From Andhra Pradesh to Punjab to Maharashtra to Kerala, the Library Movement swept the length and breadth of the country, bringing the light of learning and knowledge to the darkest corners of the nation.

We must keep this legacy of the library movement alive. I strongly believe that for society to benefit from books, there is a need to have one library per village. As a matter-of-fact, let me take this occasion to say that one library per village and one toilet per home should become a people’s movement.

We need more good books to enrich our lives and we should be a nation that reads.

It is with great concern that I note a decline in the interest in reading, especially among the young people of our country. With the advent of the internet, children now prefer to search for information online rather than rely on books. Even young children now have personal cell phones.

Reading books, especially stories, is no longer the norm. Children prefer watching videos online. One major reason is the diminishing attention spans in a fast-paced world. Unfortunately, a lot of content available online is of cursory or superficial nature and does not promote deep reflections and introspection.

A recent Scholastic survey found that only 32 per cent of children read 24 non-academic books annually. This is really troubling.

One of the ways to tackle the problem is to inculcate the habit of reading from a very young age. They must be encouraged to look at reading as a fun activity rather than a chore. Parents must also serve as role models to their children and read books themselves so that the children may follow.

The schools must also actively encourage children to read by setting up reading camps and workshops and by maintaining excellent libraries. They must also take particular care to familiarize children with the lives of great men and make them aware of the glory of India’s culture, tangible and intangible heritage.

Book Fairs like these will introduce to our new books and authors and new literary genres. Book Fairs should be conducted in every district at regular intervals to promote reading habit. There is also a need to promote quality books in terms of content.

The demographic dividend we want to achieve cannot be realized if we don’t improve our literacy rate and the number of good readers.

However, it is heartening to note that in spite of the growing fear and concern about the future of printed books, the numbers of book fairs and literary festivals are increasing worldwide.

Books have been inspiring hundreds of generations to contribute to the great cause of civilisation. But each generation has the sacred duty to acquaint the succeeding generations of the importance of reading and collecting good books.

The reading of good books is like a voyage through time, like having a conversation with the finest people who have walked the earth. The wisdom that you gain from these conversations is unparalleled.

I hope that this Book Fair and other similar events all over the country will help mould intelligent, resourceful, creative and compassionate human beings who will build a better nation and a better world.

It is my privilege to declare this book fair open.

Thank You!

Jai Hind!”

Photo credit: @CMOfficeAssam