Reading habits get a boost during social distancing

October 1, 2021 | 10:03 am GMT+7

Many people, including children, must stay at home during social distancing due to COVID1-9. Some of them see the period as a boring time, but others turn it into reading time, and promote reading culture in the community.


1. Upon hearing Ho Chi Minh City started social distancing, Huynh Quoc Cuong, a student of Ho Chi Minh City University of Education who resides in Tan Hung Ward, District 7, first thought that he would have a "peaceful summer".

However, life didn’t go as planned. While his father must practice the “three-on-the-spot” strategy (where employees live, work, and eat on-site to curb COVID-19 spreading), his grandmother and then his mother both tested positive for SARS-CoV- 2 and had to be hospitalised for treatment.

Cuong and his brother stayed at home, all they could do was pray and hope for their grandmother and mother. During that time of panic and anxiety, Cuong found that books provided a relief for him after a long day wandering around the house.

The reality, however, became brutal for him as one week after his beloved ones were admitted to the hospital, Cuong was exposed to COVID-19 and had to undergo home treatment.

The situation caused the panic to multiply. But Cuong quickly faced his fear to follow doctors’ guidance while continuing to read as a therapy for the soul, thus turning his 28-day home treatment into 28 days of reading books.

His courage and positive thinking were rewarded as Cuong tested negative to SARS-CoV-2 in early September.

The book also helped him reduce the pain of losing his grandmother due to COVID-19, which also prevented Cuong and his family from being with her during her final moments of life.

“The best way of entertainment during social distancing is reading books,” Cuong said, adding that the lockdown provided him an opportunity to immerse himself in the books he had bought but hadn't had time to read.

2. While the pandemic continues to see complicated developments the administrators of the ‘Forum of Classic Book Lovers’ have been working to promote reading culture on the social platform. The five administrators recently hosted a writing contest themed ‘I love literature, which was launched from July 25 to August 25 with 78 submissions.

Nguyen Thu, the forum' administrator, shared that many entrants chose to write about books which are hard to read and understand, such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by American author Harper Lee, and ‘Siddhartha’ by novelist Hermann Hesse.

The contest was launched to celebrate the first anniversary of the club, which has attracted around 45,000 members, while promoting reading habits among the community during the period of social distancing.

Similar social forums for book lovers such as Club of Book Lovers, Club of Book Reviews, and Club of Literary Books, and Reading Club to Develop Critical Thinking have also seen increases in members and interactions during the social distancing. The book clubs have provided book lovers with reviews on books of various topics ranging from life skills to history, science, and literature.

Notably, members of some clubs have held book-giving events for people in the pandemic-hit areas. Recently, Do Tien Thanh, a member of the ‘Books for Vietnam’s rural areas’ programme, joined researcher Nguyen Quoc Vuong to raise VND34 million to buy books for children in Bac Giang Province.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the city’s youth union launched a programme on providing books to thousands of local families to help them stay well during social distancing.

3. Translator and researcher Nguyen Quoc Vuong has authored and translated around 70 books on history, culture, and education. He once announced that if students can maintain reading habits during their 12 years of formal education, they will be equipped with a better background than many university students.

According to him, parents should take advantage of the social distancing period and get children involved in reading activities while they are not allowed to go outside.

He suggested that parents limit children's use of phones, iPads, and televisions and join in the reading time with their children. It is also necessary to create a reading environment by developing a family bookcase and enriching the book collection in order to make children more interested in reading.

Parents should read books to their children if they are still young. For children who can read on their own, parents can discuss with their children about the books they are reading.

Sharing the same view, Dr. Nguyen Thuy Anh, founder of the ‘Reading Books with Children’ Club, also considers the pandemic and social distancing period as an "opportunity" to develop children’s interest and attachment to books.

In 2020, her club launched a YouTube programme themed ‘Book of Lullabies’, with each episode introducing children into the world of knowledge through stories and discoveries about the world as well as books on life skills and problems facing both parents and children. In addition, Thuy Anh has also actively participated in many other programmes to promote reading culture.

How one spends their time while practicing social distancing depends on individual choice. Some people might get bored of being stuck at home social distancing, but others make the period more interesting by boosting their reading life.