children reading A rare sight.

Readers are few but more books coming

Mexico's reading levels are among the world's lowest

In an effort to increase the extremely low reading levels of the general population by promoting reading among schoolchildren, the Education Secretariat has announced a 50% increase in the budget for school libraries for the next school year.

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Mexicans read on average 2.94 books each year, which puts Mexico second to last on a list of 107 countries, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

With decreasing attendance numbers at public libraries and an ever-shrinking number of readers, specifically children, the situation becomes more worrying.

According to the last national reading census conducted 10 years ago by INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, only 16% of the population read for six hours or more per week, while close to a third read for just two hours or less.

Through the same census it was found that 54% hadn’t bought a book in the last year, while only 10% reported having bought six books or more.

Data obtained through a National Reading Survey in 2012 indicated the number of readers in Mexico decreased by 10% between 2006 and 2012, implying that over half of Mexicans don’t read books.

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For federal Deputy Fernando Uriarte Zazueta, reading is an irreplaceable activity that “helps develop productive children, teenagers and adults, no matter what format they’re reading in. This is why state policy should promote this activity, as in the end the people will benefit.”

Such promotion should consist of specific programs that encourage the habit of reading and at the same time encourage parents and teachers to promote it, he said.

The deputy’s sentiment was echoed by Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño, who yesterday announced an increase in the allocation for books. The 2015-2016 allocation of 200 million pesos (US $11.63 million) for books for school libraries will double next year.

The investment, said Nuño, will represent an increase of 4 million in the number of books distributed by the Education Secretariat, bringing the total to 10 million.

 Source: Crónica (sp), Reforma (sp)

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  • Peter Hobday

    Mexico reading literacy is number 27 in the world, just behind Luxembourg. You can see the stats here: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Education/Reading-literacy

    • Jimi_X

      In that survey, there were only 27 countries evaluated and Mexico was #27, the bottom of the group. In this survey there were 107 countries evaluated and Mexico was rated #106. No matter how you look at it, Mexico has a literacy problem.

    • kallen

      The link concerns reading literacy. This article deals with frequency of reading. Apples and oranges.

      • Peter Hobday

        yes, Kallen – the number of ‘books read each year’ has no bearing on literacy rates.

  • kallen

    In my travels through Mexico I have never come across a book store or news stand. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but they definitely are not common.

    • Peter Hobday

      Here in the Yucatan there are hundreds of newsstands, one on each corner. So I guess it depends where we travel.

  • Henry Wilson

    upon arrival in mexico i was surprised that almost all of the movies and television programs are dubbed into spanish from the original english rather than subtitled. a mexican friend offered that it was because “my people are too lazy to read.”

    • Peter Hobday

      yes, Americans do not like subtitles either. Hollywood remake some of the best foreign movies with their own actors, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Killing, etc. Rest of the world watch the originals.

      • Henry Wilson

        almost all foreign flicks i have watched, admittedly not any you list, in the us have been subtitled. my crowd would laugh at dubbed movies for the farce they are. i laughed out loud when in mexico in watching sean connery dubbed into spanish. got up and walked out. so did many other foreigners in the theater. ridiculous.

        • Peter Hobday

          You are clearly an educated man, Henry. Then I can recommend Swedish movies: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, The Bridge, The Killing, Borgen, France: Engrenages, Braquo, and of course Netflix’s Narcos and Marseilles. Some of those are box sets, some movies. All much better than the US remakes. All come with subtitles. Come back for more top tips.

          • James Smith

            if you are claiming that more than a handful of foreign non English language films are dubbed into English for viewing in the united states then you are either nuts or a liar. either way the result is the same.

          • Peter Hobday

            Tut Tut James! Not a nice comment! I am recommending some good foreign films that’s all. None are dubbed as far as I know, all have subtitles.

          • James Smith

            then what was the purpose of your post as the issue of this thread as I understood it was the dubbing of foreign language films into the local vernacular rather the use of subtitles?

          • Peter Hobday

            You said you watched foreign subtitled movies, James. So I gave a few recommendations.

  • Happygirl

    Times have changed. The joy of reading begins early with the parents and the school. I remember the weekly trip to the public library and story time in school.
    People still read but it is their text messages on their cell phones, their concentration is limited to thirty words or less. Reading books takes you places, expands the mind, fosters imagination, teaches you new skills, entertains you and furthers mankind’s quest of the unknown. Children and adults want tablets, so putting books on their tablets will encourage reading…imagine a whole library of their own personal interests at their fingertips.
    Mexico has a huge population of poor people who live in communities with substandard teachers and schools, schools that can’t afford a library. So, I am not surprised that illiteracy is high. However the good news is, I see many poor Mexican parents saving up and buying their children tablets and the government is giving out tablets to students in some areas. I have no doubt that Mexicans can and do want to read…just not the old fashioned way.

    • Peter Hobday

      Yes, Happygirl, you make a good point. The report quotes the number of books read, and then speaks about literacy, which is a different measure entirely. Literacy rates in Mexico are 137 out of 213 countries measured. The Mexicans I know, mostly workers, read newspapers every day.

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