Importance of Reading and Economic Growth

There are so many books to read out there, but there are so few people to read them, especially in the Balkans where I’m from. I used to travel every week from Prishtina to Prizren, a distance of 78km but 2 hours ride, for 5 years in a row with a bus full of people (more than 50 people, and often a lot of people standing) and I can count with my fingers how many people I saw reading books in the entire 5 years time. So disappointing, at least for me that I find myself bibliophile (bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of book).

Reading exercises our brains, respectively strengthens brain connections and builds new connections. It also improves concentration, develops imagination, enriches your vocabulary and teaches you new things. Books are great entertainment and more importantly it relaxes the body and calms the mind. The constant movement, flashing lights and noise which bombards our senses when we’re watching TV or looking at a computer is very stressful for our brains. White paper in the book and no voice around relaxes our eyes and brain. A book is basically a Do Not Disturb sing.

NOP World Culture Score Index (2006), that examines global media habits , has shown us the globally individuals on average spend 16.6 hours watching TV, 8 hours listening to the radio, 8.9 hours on computer/internet and only 6.5 hours reading. India is the first listed country that reads more than the other, with an average of 10.7 hours per week per person, followed by Thailand and China (at 9.4 hours and 8 hours per week respectively). Korea and Taiwan fall to the bottom of the reading list with 3.1 and 5 hours respectively. If we analyze the newest UNESCTO data that monitors both the number and type of book published per country per year as an important index of standard of living and education and of a country’s self-awareness, than top listed countries are USA, with around 300 thousand new titles in 2011, China with 250 thousand new titles in 2012, UK with 150 thousand new titles in 2011, and Russia with 100 new titles in 2013. European countries are listed in the middle ranging from 80 thousand to 5 thousand, whereas African countries are middle America are listed at the bottom of the list. Out of 124 countries listed Albania which is the only Balkan country listed in the group is placed at 85th place with 381 new titles published in 1991 – latest data officially published. No wonder Balkans are poor economically.

A country is considered developed when its citizens possess the knowledge and skills they need, when its people are educated, respectively read. When literacy rate is high, people can have better jobs, thus increasing the GNP and per capita income aside from providing a decent life. I’m sure we can argue about this; however statistics show a linear correlation between reading and economic development. In fact the gross national product represents the market value of goods and services produced within a country in a given period, and it doesn’t count wellbeing and standard of living unless they are converted economically. As one famous quote says “if you put your clothes in a clothes dryer, the energy you spend is part of the measured economy. Hang them on the clothesline and they disappear from our economy”. Yet, many good things happening in are strongly correlated with the GDP level, e.g. when country’s level of GDP increases its average standard of living improve, and/or quality of education and health services. If GDP can influence the quality of education, so will reading influence the GDP, because educated human capital is an important cause of growth although it won’t automatically or inevitably bring these outcomes. It will take a lot of reading to influence a country’s economy, but it will.

The relation between education and economic growth is an ongoing research and analysis process since 18th century with the Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall analysis (two important figures in economic profession) and are ongoing still today. Researchers analyze it from different perspectives, such as school-years, return on investment, etc., but the end result of them all is that there’s a strong relation between education and economic growth, which means there’s a strong relation between reading and economic growth if we consider that reading is fundamental block of learning/education.

Developed countries are proud of their nation for high level of reading cultures. They have realized that the economic, and not only political and social life too, depends on building literate citizens that are able to read and practice their learning. It is very sad and disappointing how less governments invest in promoting reading, or in other words are aware of the reading importance. Our country has become a laughing-stock in the eyes of international community for the fact of very poor reading culture. It is no wonder why it is said for us in Kosovo (and I believe the same goes for all countries in Balkan) that if you want to hide money from Kosovars, place it in a book, because they will never open it. unfortunately we are being destroyed as a nation without knowing it at all, as Ray Bradbury said ‘You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them’

I believe that government should invest in developing the reading culture in Kosovo, and not only by writing strategies how to develop e reading nation, but practically by investing on it. They could introduce a more attractive and friendly used libraries in the primary and secondary schools, where lie and develop the rereading grassroots. It won’t cost a lot, we have in Kosovo already a Diaspora member, a philanthropist who has developed such libraries with his own investment. More libraries should be established at the local government levels. A situation where there is only one central library in the state capital does not promote reading culture.
Government should support authors and publishers of books too, so that it could be available and cheap for people to buy. On the other had parents should encourage reading to their children. Instead of making their children addicted to technology by playing games, teach them how to read paper-books, or even online books if that more attractive.

The task to build a highly literate population rest upon the government and the people, and the time to start working towards its realization is now. You can read anything. I won’t discuss at this time the quality of book-read in Kosovo, just read, because in every book there’s something you will learn, if nothing else, at learn you will learn how to write without mistakes. And never forget even the ‘bad books’ are books and therefore sacred.



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