Why do other countries read more than Mexico?

In Mexico, according to the National Reading Survey of 2012, the population reads only 2.9 books a year.

Why do other countries read more than Mexico?
Photo: Pixabay

Before the implementation of the plans to promote reading in Spain, which started in 2001, the reading rate was 36% of frequent readers; Ten years later this percentage increased to 47.2%; in France, in 1981, 36% of French people did not read a book, twelve years later the percentage was reduced to 25%; in Argentina, considered the most cultured nation in Latin America, 4.6 books per year are read per inhabitant according to data from the most recent study of the Regional Center for the Promotion of Books in Latin America and the Caribbean, CERLALC-UNESCO.

These three experiences of promoting reading have been based on the provision of policies based on studies, diagnoses, and programs with well-defined lines of action. In the cases of France, Spain, and Argentina, the professionalization of animators and promoters of reading, the promotion of municipal or regional libraries, decentralization, and the increase of the budget have been vital.

In Mexico, according to the National Reading Survey of 2012, the population reads only 2.9 books a year. On January 27, the National Reading Strategy was launched in Sinaloa and a list of activities scheduled for the next three months was announced, but so far no document has been presented with the central lines of the strategy to promote reading.

Tomás Granados, editor and student of reading in Mexico, wrote in "Confabulario", the cultural supplement of EL UNIVERSAL, which is difficult to understand that the Fondo de Cultura Económica after engulfing Educal and the General Direction of Publications of the Ministry of Culture "Want to shoulder the enormous task of correcting what the educational and labor system has not achieved: eradicate functional illiteracy."

Phillipe Ollé-Laprune, who was director of the Book Office at the French embassy in Mexico, says he told high cultural officials that Mexico should have a training center for book trades, but it did not materialize; On the other hand, no policies have been made, no goals have been set, nor has the budget and human resources been privileged for the promotion of reading promotion.

"It's something in the background, it's the role that belongs to the State, at all levels. We need to sensitize the political actors, they have to be convinced that it is urgent to act; teach that a bookstore and a library can work together, "he says.

The case of Spain

The Plan for the promotion of reading 2017-2020 in Spain seeks among other objectives the promotion of reading habits in schools, the strengthening of public libraries as access doors to reading, and strengthening the sector of the cultural industry of the book. It has an annual budget of 9 million dollars, putting the focus on the promotion in each of the educational stages, from the first approach in early childhood education to strengthening the habit of reading in high school.

The plan of the Ministry of Education aims that in 2020 the educational centers of the different territorial administrations dedicate one hour a day to reading during non-school hours. The educational competencies in Spain are decentralized, so it is up to the Autonomous Communities to implement the educational policies in each region.

One of the pillars of the plan is the promoters of reading, especially the figure of the teacher. With courses and didactic materials, the Ministry of Education seeks to update the pedagogical competencies of teachers and contribute to the development of professional teaching skills so that students are interested in reading.

Most of the libraries are public and depend on the city councils, a mainly municipal activity. Spain has almost 47 million inhabitants and around 4 thousand 600 public libraries; It also has 80 mobile libraries that serve more than 11 million people. Almost 1 out of every 4 Spaniards that receive services from the public library, does so through the libraries that develop throughout Spain an itinerant and eminently rural library service.

The number of readers in Spain in 2018 represents 61.8% of the population, however, 38.2% of Spaniards never read or rarely read. In 15 years, the percentage that declared having read at least one book in a year increased by 4.5 points.

France, intense encouragement

In 1981, in France, President Francoise Mitterrand undertook a policy of encouraging intense and public reading; He asked experts for a diagnosis of the book and reading that showed that 36% of French people did not read a book a year. Twelve years later, when they did the same survey, the figure dropped to 25%. The decrease was due to a policy of training professionals that does not exist in Mexico.

This is what Phillipe Ollé-Laprune, writer and connoisseur of books and reading who came to Mexico with the commission to set up the French book office in Mexico, points out that a comprehensive program was proposed with well-defined lines to promote the reading, and even made a law that forces cities of more than ten thousand inhabitants to have a public library with trained and trained people at the head, and of course with a budget to acquire the collection.

"There is decentralization in the promotion of reading, even those in charge of the libraries are the ones who buy the books and choose their funds according to the population," says Ollé-Laprune.

"Each state of France has a cultural address that is of the French state, where they support but do not impose, they let people work in each of the cities, in the libraries. They support the training of librarians and with the funds, each large city must have a large media library ", says the scholar who has suggested to Mexican officials the creation of a training center related to the book.

The experience in Argentina

In Argentina, a nation that is still considered the most cultured in Latin America, 4.6 books are read every year. Popular Libraries, a program founded in 1870 that today forms the National Commission of Popular Libraries of Argentina and exceeds 2 thousand spaces. It is a body dependent on the Ministry of Culture of the Nation that promotes the strengthening of popular libraries as civil society organizations and promotes their value as physical and social spaces for community development and citizenship building.

These spaces, which could be like the reading rooms that Mexico has, are distinguished because they are headed by people who are trained and it is they, the coordinators themselves who decide what to buy, how many copies of each title to acquire, and which strategies go best for each social group they serve.

Those more than two thousand popular libraries are added to a plan to promote books and reading that brings together more than 2,000 bookstores, over 700 publishers, and about 128 annual fairs that are held throughout the country.