SOME Bruneians are still struggling to find a wide range of books, despite repeated calls to promote a strong reading culture in the country. Dk Zatty Joanda, a 19-year-old student from Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College said that she orders most of her books online as she has difficulty finding her choice of books in local bookstores and libraries. She said that the books sold in Brunei are mainstream and it is difficult to find autobiographies of prominent and influencial people like American presidential candidate Barack Obama, instead there are autobiographies of celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Tori Spelling. However, she does see a growth in reading especially among her friends and school mates.
A teacher who did not want to be named said that the school library does not have substantial literature, materials where the students can learn something. Instead there are sections of romance novels, and students now use the library merely to go online and chat with their friends. "Classics are hard to find, you walk into any bookstore and find large sections of romance, crime and teen/pop culture books. Brunei needs more than that, they're not the only genres worth reading," said Hjh Nurul Izni Merni, 17. To facilitate the needs of the students, Adriani Ahmad, an English language teacher from Sekolah Tinggi Perempuan Raja Isteri (STPRI) said that they have to set up a fund to buy the latest and most popular books to entice students to read.
Rosmawati Dahlan, a mother of seven, said that it is difficult to encourage her children to read, as an entire set of encyclopedias which were bought remain untouched. Her children would prefer to sit in front of the television than read a book. Rosmawati said she understands the importance of reading, especially English books. "Internet and television are more convenient than reading books, imagination is not needed unlike reading," said Hafizah Nordin, 25, a civil servant. The excuse usually given is "not enough time" to read but enough time to read up on the latest gossip online. Hafizah also said that most of the youths now are more interested in reading gossip magazines. They prefer to read magazines to stay in the trend instead of reading inspiring stories, she said."There should be an official book club to raise awareness on reading culture. The members can get together and discuss a certain book," said Hj Damit Hj Musa, a father of three. He also suggested inviting authors from the region to have a book tour in Brunei or engage in online book discussions.