Is the habit of reading books gradually declining in the country? The answer is simply 'yes'. It also needs an elaboration which means identifying the reasons behind decline in the habit. This requires detailed analysis with comprehensive data or statistics. Moreover, when it is asserted that the habit of book reading is declining, does it also mean that there was a time when people of Bangladesh used to read more? This is a tricky question.
The rate of adult literacy was significantly lower four decades ago. Only around 30.0 per cent of the total population was literate - able to read and write with understanding a short simple statement about daily life. The number of population was also small, around 82.0 million. Thus, very small number of people used to read books.
The country's population has now reached at around 162.0 million while the literacy rate increased to around 73.0 per cent. It means, a large number of people are now able to read books. Nevertheless, several proxy indicators show that fewer people are reading books compared to a large population.
Despite a steady improvement in literacy rate in the country, a lack of interest in reading book reflects some structural flaws of the education system. Students in schools and colleges are not usually encouraged to read books other than text and note or guide books. The so-called 'out books' including fictions and non-fictions are not acceptable to most of the guardians and teachers. They think that by reading these books, students will lose attention to class works and examinations.
Parents and teachers themselves inspire young ones to develop interest in reading books. When they show little interest in reading, it is difficult to expect that children will read. Hard competition in the job-seeking system of education creates anxiety and insecurity especially among the middle class families. So, they are not paying any attention to develop the habit of book reading
Many people in different professions are also not reading books. Some of them didn't grow up with the habit of reading. There are other people who were used to reading books but fail to maintain the habit due to increasing stressful lifestyle. This factor doesn't get adequate attention. Just think about the chaotic traffic situation which compels people to spend their valuable time on roads. Inconvenient and hazardous public transport also provides little space for reading on board.
And then come the smart phones with easy access to internet. From students to workers, from housewives to professionals, everyone is addicted to the digital world. With electronic devices in hands, they have access to almost unlimited options of entertainment.
Nevertheless, some people are also reading on their tablets or smart phones. E-book is spreading slowly in the country. Instead of hardcover or paperback printed books, a number of people are gradually adopting to e-books. Thus a change in the habit of book reading is also taking place slowly.