7% of Singaporean adults did not read in last 12 months: NLB

7% of Singaporean adults did not read in last 12 months: NLB
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim joined a Human Library session with author Constance Singam at the launch of this year's Read! Fest. Photo: National Library Board
Published: 7:15 PM, June 9, 2017

SINGAPORE — Seven per cent of adults here did not read in the past year, whether it be books, e-books, online or print news articles, or magazines, a survey by the National Library Board (NLB) found.

Findings in this first-ever national study on adults’ reading habits also showed that the main reasons why people do not read is because they prefer to watch TV, shows on DVDs or online videos, and they spend more time doing other activities.

The study, which interviewed more than 3,500 Singapore residents aged 20 and above from May to August last year, was commissioned in conjunction with last year’s launch of the five-year National Reading Movement. The movement aimed to get people to set aside time to read regularly, to engage in this activity with family and friends, expand their literary diet to take in other genres, and read in their mother tongues.

The NLB said that the study’s aim is to find out if, and what, people read, and from where people get their books, among other things.

On reading in the mother tongue, the study showed that 66 per cent of respondents are able to read in both English and their mother tongue, 20 per cent can read in English, and 14 per cent are able to read only in their mother tongue.

Among the reasons cited for not reading in the mother tongue are the lack of language proficiency and the lack of value in reading in the language. To address these, the board said that about one-third of the programmes at the two-month reading festival (Read! Fest 2017), launched on Friday (June 9) would be conducted in mother tongue languages. This is a 50-per-cent increase from last year.

Other results of the NLB study indicated that there is widespread use of social media in discovering new reading materials. Social media ranked second in the ways that respondents look for new reads, while word-of-mouth referrals is still the most common method.

The board noted that among younger adult readers, the majority of them (73 per cent) find new materials through social media.

To complement this, it also launched on Friday its Share A Read social media campaign, where users may post a book recommendation on social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #whatareyoureadingsg.

Commenting on the findings, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that he was “pleasantly surprised” to note that 80 per cent of respondents read more than once a week.

Calling it a good development, he added that the NLB had been “pervasive” over the past year in “spreading the message of reading more”.

This year’s Read! Fest runs from Friday (June 9) to July 29. The full programme can be found at