Rabat – Morocco’s Social Economic and Environmental Council (CESE) says that a concerted national strategy must be established to promote reading throughout life.The report, entitled “Promoting Reading, an Urgency and Necessity” recommends that national conferences be held to develop integrated and shared public policy that promotes reading.Additionally, CESE proposed that local authorities across Morocco set aside a budget to promote reading, as well as to promote the production and distribution of books by putting in place incentives to support the publishing sector. CESE said incentives such as prizes and grants to various categories for Moroccan authors must be established. CESE added that regular reading activities must be promoted in the school system, on top of writing a national reading week into the annual calendar.The Council also called for the development of a national network of local public libraries, as well as encouraging the private sector to invest in school libraries and cultural centers, and creating reading spaces in all places of worship.To ensure access to reading resources to those from all backgrounds, CESE recommends free online libraries be established. They also recommend a national initiative to promote startups involved in the creation of dedicated digital tools and applications, in order to engage more people to reading. These tools would take into account the particular needs of people with reading difficulties or special needs.Why is reading in Morocco important?In Morocco, illiteracy is still prevalent, with 32.2% of Morocco’s population older than 10 years of age being considered illiterate. Illiteracy affects women more than men. 42.1% of Moroccan women and 22.1% of men were recorded as illiterate in 2014.Rural populations are also more affected, with 57% of illiterate people coming from rural areas as opposed to the lower percentage of 43% from urban areas.Although literacy has seen a dramatic rise in recent years, with an increase of 12% between 2009 and 2015, there is still a long way to go. CESE’s report found that Moroccan society is still marked by inadequate reading levels.CESE believes this is caused by a combination of factors, including family environment and socio-economic background, which play an important role in the reading level of children. According to CESE, these factors also have a detrimental effect on the persistence of illiteracy and the lack of school and public libraries or other dedicated reading spaces.Adding to this, CESE says, is the lack of involvement of local authorities in promoting reading as well as low productivity of the publishing sector, the regression of bookstores, and a weakening of the book market.How much time do Moroccans spend reading?A survey conducted by Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP) from 2011-2012 and released in January of this year, analyzed how Moroccans spend their free time. The study found that Moroccans over the age of 15 only spend an average of 2 minutes a day reading.For children, the rate was even lower, with an average of just one minute a day. Instead, children devote 3 hours daily to watching television, accounting for 43.6 percent of their free time on average.Government strides to increase literacyMorocco’s National Agency Against Illiteracy (ANLCA), set up in 2013 to address the problem nationwide, has been making strides to reduce illiteracy. ANLCA has put in place a national strategy against illiteracy, aiming to reduce illiteracy rates to 10% by 2026, as well as supporting organizations across Morocco that work towards ensuring access to education.ANLCA runs workshops for teachers and provides training modules to support children and adults in achieving literacy, prioritizing actions for women, children, and people in rural areas.It has also created an app, “Alpha Nour,” to teach basic literacy, and in May, it launched the Center for Literacy Resources and Expertise (CREA), a virtual platform on which to share training modules.ANLCA’s goal is for 1,050,000 more people to achieve literacy every year.Read also: 550,000 Visitors Attended the 25th Casablanca International Book Fair
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