Less than 50% read one literary book a year: Poll

Fewer than one in two Singaporeans have read at least one "literary book" a year, a survey by the National Arts Council has found.
Fewer than one in two Singaporeans have read at least one "literary book" a year, a survey by the National Arts Council has found.PHOTO: ST FILE

Less than half of Singapore residents have read at least one "literary book" a year, the first National Literary Reading and Writing Survey by the National Arts Council (NAC) has found.

Out of the 1,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) aged 15 and above interviewed, only 44 per cent said they read at least one such book between March 2014 and March last year.

The NAC said literary books include fiction, poetry, drama, graphic novels, creative non-fiction, critical writing and anthologies.

Singapore's reading rate falls far behind that of other countries. For example, a 2014 survey by market research firm YouGov showed that 75 per cent of Britons aged 18 and above have finished reading a book for pleasure over a one-year period.

In the Singapore survey, over 90 per cent of readers said they read in English. On average, only a quarter of respondents who read said they read books in their mother tongue.

The NAC survey, which was conducted via street interviews based on a sample representative of the population by age, gender and ethnicity, also found that about 11 per cent of those polled read books by Singaporean writers. The most popular local writers were Catherine Lim; Russell Lee, the creator of True Singapore Ghost Stories; and Low Kay Hwa, who is known for his teen romance novels.

Close to half of the respondents said they did not read local literature because of lack of exposure or awareness, while 12 per cent said they did creative writing for self-expression and relaxation.

National Book Development Council of Singapore executive director R. Ramachandran said the survey "affirms (the council's) thinking that Singaporeans have limited exposure to Singaporean authors and Singapore published titles".

He said the council has recently reorganised its programmes to focus on promoting Singapore writers and books, particularly fiction.

"This effort, together with similar programmes organised by related professional literary institutions, would help towards developing Singapore into a mature and an avid reading society," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Less than 50% read one literary book a year: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe