A total of 75 percent of Cambodians have battled depression, causing sadness and loss of interest, said businessman and philanthropist Quach Mengly as he urged people, as an option, to read to reduce stress.
Mengly, who was speaking at a reading panel discussion, added that reading also leads to improving language skills, strengthening soft skills, managing situations, critical thinking, staying focused, being flexible, creativity, and adopting the art of speaking and happy living.
The event, Read Louder, was organized by World Vision Cambodia on March 27 to raise a 10,000 book campaign to improve children's literacy countrywide.
Mengly, who has a Master’s in Public Health Practice from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the United States, said that a mother reading to her unborn child helps the baby in the womb because it can feel, understand, and touch activities carried out by parents, particularly the mother.
However, when the baby is born, parents also need to read more to make their baby warm and build confidence, he said, adding that the baby needs parents to repeat the reading voice again and again. “The baby doesn’t get tired of listening to reading by mom or dad,” said Mengly.
“From Kindergarten to Grade 3, reading is only for entertainment. From Grade 3 and up, reading is required for knowledge. But students from grades 9 to 12 have to read for critical thinking,” he added.
Mengly said that to avoid falling asleep while reading, people should start with an interesting concept and not read a complicated book. Instead, they should start with a simple book and then move to another level. However, some foods also prevent people from falling asleep.
Types of food include bread, rice, beef, chicken, fish, eggs, pork, milk, yogurt, he said, adding that vegetables and fruits contain more nutrition.
Leng Vireak, Operations Director and Chief of Party for Social Accountability at World Vision Cambodia, said that it is important to promote reading skills. If people choose reading as a priority, it means they are going to choose a positive activity for society and the people.
“Choosing reading means that you are going to choose to develop skills that will provide a positive impact to yourself and others as well,” Vireak said during the panel discussion.
Vireak believes that promoting reading at home should be a priority and people cannot make it work in the community if they do not promote it and take action to read at home.
He said that, based on his experience, every time he reads he uses a critical lens to think about the concepts in the book and takes notes. Reading out loud is also the best way to avoid falling asleep because people cannot sleep when reading out loud.
Additionally, readers have to choose a book that is relevant to what they are doing. Sometimes, there is no need to try to read the entire book and the last step is to select one book that you feel touched by or is applicable to your current situation, Vireak recommended.
“Do not compare one book to another in terms of good or bad. We just have to remember that the result of your ability also depends on what we read. What you focus on is what you gain.”
Peng Ann, of Think with PengAnn, said at the discussion that it is beneficial to read short articles and easy books. As he sees it, the current situation in Cambodia requires a larger reading community. Ann also runs a reading club to encourage youth to read and exchange ideas.
“I was taught that creating a community of readers will lead to an influential reading habit, complete each other and have long-term perspectives,” Ann said.
Ann said that to avoid falling asleep, he spends time reading a book that can solve his problems and meet his expectations. “It's nothing strange that you pull away from a book that you don't feel interested in,” he said. “However, don’t let this reason make you think that you don`t love to read because it's partially not interesting.”
Kim Dyna, an author of eight books, said at the panel discussion that to make reading productive, people must confront an environment that makes them comfortable or puts them in a good mood. Setting time and goals are also important.