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Promoting Reading: Everyone’s Obligation*
Words that transform themselves into ideas to let our imaginations soar,
words that touch our senses and spark our desire to know and think. All of
this can happen when we open a book.
To open a book and read is a basic right of every child, young person, and human being. It is the key that opens up doors to common histories and culture. For that reason, reading should form an integral part of the agendas of educational and cultural policy and practice.
The opportunity that human beings have for “learning to learn” in a permanent and integral manner diminishes quickly if the tools to partake in these opportunities are not made available. The development of cognitive abilities must be stimulated so that everyone’s basic opportunities are developed to the greatest extent possible while at the same time avoiding the onset of the inequities that will arise later on in the maturing process.
To awaken language and deepen the senses by forming early learning habits is a strong and integral tool; a transversal tool through which the rest of knowledge and other ongoing learning possibilities flows. In this way, the formation of expressive, imaginative, and knowledge-productive citizens can be facilitated. We are talking of embarking on a journey of maturation and growth that begins with a mother’s reading, touching of story books and experiences in libraries and children’s reading rooms, and then continues with the creation of independent academic habits that support access to university or specialized libraries, as well as access --throughout one’s life—to either a public library or a digital library located on an Internet portal.
In addition, the skills developed through traditional forms of reading today are challenged by the new fields that remind us of the speed with which information and knowledge travel in the context of a global society: the quantity and quality of facts to process, their presentation in various multimedia and digital formats, and their appearance in a variety of foreign languages. At the same time, the creation of regional economic communities has opened the playing field to include work environments that require intelligent heads and hands.
For that reason, promoting reading as a public policy is a positive step for change and growth that requires continuity, long-term planning, and successful design of resources and means, as well as human resource training. In this sense, the desire to read should be stimulated, since learning to read in an information and knowledge society implies much more than mastering the ABC’s if one is to be able to fully participate, both as an employee and a citizen. The already wide gap of traditional illiteracy in the region now competes with the so-called digital illiteracy gap.
In conclusion, the universal promotion of reading in all its distinct forms should be a priority for legislative implementation and for promotion in public, national, regional, and international agendas. It must make up a cultural standard accepted by communities, and recognized for its value and contribution to social change. This is how policies are taken on, as a good and common value, as an inheritance from parents to children, from governments to citizens.?
Biblioteca Nacional de Maestros
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.