By Tamjid Alkohali
Saleh al-Amri is a student in the Faculty of Commerce, and according to him, reading a book isn’t a useful thing. He said that the life of today is different from the life of books. The books carry an ideal language which is unlike the language of the real life.
“Reading books are suitable for developing societies, but in our society, it’s enough to take the advice from old people because the situation is different.”
In Yemen, apart from economic, political and social crises, there is a also cultural crisis which is the cause of it all. People run for solutions to all their problems, forgetting that the only one is simply reading. It is shocking that so many people consider themselves too busy to even read one book per year.
Talal al-Rony, an employee in a government institution, said that he doesn’t think that time is allotted to allow for people to read books or go to libraries. Today, people need to work extra hours, if not the whole day, so watching a program in TV or listening to radio is more comfortable after a hard day’s work.
Al-Rony justifies his own lack of reading due to time constraints. However, what about people who spend a long time in transit, even more because of traffic jams? They do not have books, newspapers, or magazines.
In one of Tahrir’s students, Arwa, a student at Sana’a University, says the spends an hour in buses every day without doing anything productive.
“Sometime I think I should spend this time reading a book, but believe me, it’s difficult to enjoy a book among the noise, and crowded inside the bus. Reading needs a quiet place.”
The lack of reading in Yemeni society seems to have many reasons. Kareem al-Koreemy works as a waiter in Galaxy restaurant, and said that he likes reading. He considers books to be a best friend during free time, but recently he stopped reading.
“Books became very expensive for me. If I think to go to library to read, there is one near from my house or work. In addition, borrowing books isn’t an easy thing, and it’s also expensive. Anyone who wants to borrow a book from any library has to put at least thousand and five hundred YR. Therefore, I finds reading from internet is cheaper and easier for me.”
Al-Koreemy says that he finds reading paper books to be more enjoyable than reading electronic books, or on the internet, but he doesn’t have another solution.
There are many people selling books on the streets of Sana’a. Ahmed Mahioub says he has been selling books since the 1990’s. It was once a good source of income, since he sold hundreds a day, but now, he only sells around twenty for YR 100 each.
Radyai al-Watary, who is responsible for the Cultural House, which has a national library that looks more like an empty old museum, says that the number of readers has decreased. Only 20% of visitors come to search for books, while 5% come to read quietly. Until now, the library hasn’t done an awareness campaign, or staged any activities to attract visitors. However, they have recently decided to explore a plan for getting more patrons.
In al-Wahadah school, eighth grade student Samia says that they only have class once a week for reading.
“I don’t like reading class the library is small, students make noise and there aren’t enough schools.
Mariam Kassem, a teacher in the same school, emphasized the importance of improving students’ reading skills, and argues that the positive results that are reflected in the student’s personality. However, this matter is out of their hand, because of the school’s limitations.
D. Fatima al-Sayegh, a sociologist at Sana’a University, argues that the real reason is cultural, and not what people think. According to al-Sayegh, there is always time for reading many books, however people are losing the ability to read for long periods because of new audio and visual technologies like movies and the internet.
“Because of these facilities, students don’t want to read anymore.”
Al-Sayegh emphasized that reading is a habit like any other habits, and needs to be grown within us since childhood. Children need to learn how to be patient. However, they also need families who do the same. Solving the cultural problem will involve every generation.