Less than half of Singaporeans read literary books, National Arts Council survey finds

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

SINGAPORE - Fewer than one in two Singaporeans 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 who were interviewed, only 44 per cent said that they have read at least one literary book between March 2014 and March 2015.

This is despite the fact that 80 per cent of those polled agreed that reading enabled people to learn new things. Seventy-two per cent also believed that reading improved their quality of lives.

Such literary books include fiction, poetry, drama, children's and young adult literature, graphic novels, creative non-fiction, critical writing and anthologies.

Singapore's reading rate falls far behind that of other countries. A 2014 survey by market research firm YouGov showed that 75 per cent of British adults aged 18 and above have read and finished a book for pleasure over the course of a year, while a study by American think tank the Pew Research Center in the same year showed that 76 per cent of Americans have read at least one book in a year.

The NAC survey, which was conducted via islandwide street interviews and based on a sample size that was representative of the population, also found that about 11 per cent of those polled read books by Singaporean writers. Twelve per cent also said they did creative writing for self-expression and relaxation. Mr R. Ramachandran, executive director of the National Book Development Council of Singapore, said that the survey "affirms (the council's) thinking that Singaporeans have limited exposure to Singaporean authors and Singapore published titles".

He added that the council has recently re-organised its programmes to focus on the promotion of 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.

yuensin@sph.com.sg