SCMP Saturday, September 15, 2001

Throw the book at a system that discourages reading for pleasure

I was horrified to read the article "Students find reading a closed book" (Education Post, September 8). Of great concern was the observation by University of Hong Kong English professor Shirley Lim Geok-lin that children in the SAR need to be motivated to read long before they become undergraduates. Apparently, the reverse is the case. The education system positively discourages children from reading for leisure - an indispensable tool in the creative development of a child's ability to become a fully participating member of society.
It is inconceivable that reading books unconnected with a formal syllabus or rigid educational objectives could be considered a distraction. The mere act of browsing through books is a precious human right which no child should be denied and without which his or her persona will be the poorer.
Unrestricted access to book shops and libraries is a distinguishing characteristic of a free and tolerant community. Unless the critical faculties of children are developed by reading as often and as widely as possible, not only will their intellectual power be stunted and a source of limitless pleasure be denied but this cherished freedom will be placed in jeopardy.
Hopefully the picture is not so bleak, but if it truly is, surely it is incumbent on the education authorities to urgently redress the situation.