A Great Month of Books

When people discuss spare time activities1 or hobbies, reading is always named along with doing sports, listening to music and watching TV. If you ask about gifts for Christmas or a birthday, people often say they buy books.

“Tell me what you read, and I will tell you who you are! “is a well-known Slovak proverb. There are even two grains2 of truth in it. Firstly, what or who we are will influence what we read. We can choose books, magazines, web sites or other reading material according to our interests or what we need to know for our profession. The other truth is that what we read might have a strong influence on our personality. Reading provides us with information, but can also form our opinions or evoke3 emotions. In that way it influences what or who we are.

Do you read books, magazines, web sites or nothing? What are you reading at the moment? Is there always a book on your bedside table4?

We sometimes discuss this with our students. The outcomes5 are often surprising. Reading books is not as popular as it was when I was a high school student. These days you do not see students secretly hiding6 a book under the desk and reading something thrilling7 during the class. Instead, they secretly send text messages, check their e-mails, or chat on the facebook using their smart-phones. Even smart students frequently state that they do not enjoy reading books; they find it boring, hard work or pointless8. Today students prefer reading e-mails or other texts they can find on the Internet, and magazines, and they definitely would rather watch TV or a DVD/ video than read books. However, the situation is not as bad as it seems. According to some surveys9, e.g., by Nestle UK Ltd. 2003, many young people still see reading as relaxing and even fun. They admit10 that it is educational, can support learning and be informative. For them reading is about magic and the escape that a great story can make possible. You would hardly find Balzac, Tolstoy, Hemingway or other classic authors on their shelves, although they are a part of a school’s compulsory curriculum11.

The most popular authors with young people today are J.R.R. Tolkien and his “The Lord of the Rings,” as well as J.R. Rowling with her seven volumes of “Harry Potter,” Enid Blyton, R.L. Stine, or Terry Pratchett, and other strictly contemporary authors.

The least enjoyed books with young people are books about politics or current affairs12, as well as religious texts, or practical books, such as gardening or cookery books. The majority of young people read books in school or college and for homework, but texts used in school curriculum are not favoured. A key factor influencing readership levels outside school is social class and the other is peer13 influence. If my friend likes reading, then reading books is cool. The other interesting issue14 is the genre preference according to gender15. Both boys and girls like fantasy, humour and thrillers or horror stories. Girls also like books about pop stars, autobiographies or sentimental novels, while boys prefer adventure and sports books. Surprisingly, girls like horror stories more than boys. In general, girls are more committed16 to reading than boys, and since good readers do better in school, they often outperform17 boys in classes. For all ages reading has long been a minority leisure activity as compared with watching TV or the Internet. But many people claim that the biggest barrier to reading is time and the cost of books. Where and when do young people read?

As this new generation of people are experienced “multi-taskers,” they are reading while on the move – in a bus, on the underground, etc., or while watching TV or listening to music. Anyway, for all generations the most favourite place is bed, and the favourite time is bedtime.
Reading is relaxing and can be fun; it is nice to finish the day with a good book in your hand.

A c t i v i t y
Answer the following questions and discuss.
Do you agree with the proverb “Tell me what you read and I will tell you who you are”?
Is reading books your favourite leisure activity?
What kind of books do you like to read?
Do you like reading for school?
Why? Why not?
What is your favourite time and place for reading?
Do your friends influence you in your selection of books?
Which do you prefer: reading books, watching TV or browsing on the Internet? Why?

Dagmar Špildová


1 aktivity voľného času – aktivity volného času; 2 zrnko; 3 vyvolávať, vzbudzovať, evokovať – vyvolávať, vzbudzovať, evokovať; 4 nočny stolík – noční stolek; 5 vysledok, zaver – výsledek, závěr; 6 schovavať – ukrýt; 7 vzrušujuce, napínavé – vzrušující, napínavé; 8 zbytočný, nezmyselný – zbytečný, nesmyslný; 9 prieskum – průzkum; 10 pripustiť, uznať – připustit, uznať; 11 povinné osnovy; 12 aktualne udalosti – aktuální události; 13 rovesnik – vrstevník; 14 problematika, otazka; 15 pohlavie, rod – pohlaví, rod; 16 oddany, presvedčeny – oddaný, přesvědčený; 17 prekonať, podať lepši výkon – překonat, podat lepší výkon