New TV programme drives public reading craze in China

Public reading events has become a craze across China.

The unprecedented upsurge in an interest in reading has been driven by Readers, a new television variety show broadcast on China Central Television. In every episode, five to seven groups of readers from different areas selected are invited onto the show where they will share their personal stories and read a passage from a literary classic that holds special meaning for them.

The programme is produced and hosted by popular Chinese anchor Dong Qing, who brings years of experience in broadcast television to the show. Backed by the inspiring stage design created by Ms. Dong and sophisticated production, the culturally-relevant content of the programme resonates deeply with the show’s Chinese audiences. Soon after the first episode was broadcast, similar reading events started popping up all over the country, especially in military barracks and on school and college campuses.

As an important setting of the programme, the Reading Pavilions are specialised mobile recording studios outfitted with simple recording and sound insulation equipment and are open to anyone with a favourite literary passage and the desire to give a voice to the words in the passage. Earlier this month, more than a hundred university students stood in a long line in front of the Reading Pavilion at Wuhan University for an opportunity to make a three-minute-long audio recording of themselves reading their favourite passage from a book or piece of poetry.

Wherever a Reading Pavilion has made a stop, it has immediately drawn the attention of the local citizenry and become a focus of the local media. Aspiring readers, a relatively even mix of men and women spanning all age groups and walks of life, have gathered in long lines outside the mobile recording studios for their chance to read a meaningful, favourite passage. The Reading Pavilions have not only stimulated a renewed interest among the public in reading, but also provides them with a platform for expressing something important that they have gained from a reconnection with this simple and time-honoured pastime.

This new love affair with reading comes on the heels of the recent Chinese Poetry Competition TV show, which was a ratings success. Library vending-machines are also a common site in Beijing. Currently 174 street libraries are dotted around the capital city, with the Capital Library of China planning to extend the scheme into other cities.

It might be hard to imagine a similar programme being a ratings success on say BBC, ITV, Sky or RTE. But with a recent survey by The Reading Agency finding that two thirds of people would like to read more, but nearly half admit they are too busy to read, it might be just want the general public seek to get their literary fix.

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