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Where are the books? Celebrating National Book Week

The nation celebrates National Book Week from November 14-20 each year. In all the years that I lived in Mumbai, I’ve never seen any events commemorating the week – maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places.

In Goa this year, we have an exhibition of rare books at the Archives and a series of events organised by Institute Menezes Braganza.

Google informs me that the National Book Trust is doing a little more. A week-long story telling festival in Delhi, an exhibition/sale of children’s books and a list of events across the country for students will mark the Week.

Here’s something else I didn’t know: The week is celebrated every year by the NBT to commemorate Nehru’s birthday on Nov. 14. Nehru started the NBT in 1957 to “create a reading culture in India”. At least someone thought about the idea…

My question: If the week is about promoting reading, where are the books? I was expecting to see at least token ‘sales’ at every book-shop, programs in schools, a membership drive at the library… How does one encourage reading when access to books is poor?

Given Goa’s image as a literate state, I’d love to see more bookshops lining the street. Panjim has a dismal three or four stores, a far cry from what it should have. The Library, while huge, does not really invite or encourage reading on a large scale. You can borrow just one book at a time (or pay Rs.250/- for an additional card, upto a max of 3 cards). Which means that you can’t take more than 3 books at a time. Compare this with the UK (I know, I know) where, at the council library, we could take out 13 books at a time, each valid for 6 weeks and renewable online.

I’d love to know what’s happening in school libraries. If you have kids, do they get to bring books from school? Let me know how that works.

Maybe I should just set up a Room to Read chapter in Goa… or my own bookshop…

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One comment on “Where are the books? Celebrating National Book Week

  1. It was so hard getting access to books in Delhi. I think the reading culture is already there, but unless you’re wealthy or have wealthy parents (if you’re a kid), getting good or the latest books is difficult.

    I used to love romance novels as a teenager. The school library wouldn’t allow them, there was no public library nearby, and I couldn’t afford to buy them. We either had to read what we were told to or expected to read, or we didn’t read at all.

    I don’t think much has changed.

    We need public libraries in India! Desperately!

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