Do Italians Read Enough?

Italians might not be great readers, but this doesn’t mean that they are not interested in the beauty around us

International notorious Italian author Umberto Eco once said: “we live for books. A sweet mission in this world dominated by disorder and decay.” Several scientific data establish that reading helps learning skills, mind growth, and developing imagination by fostering our creative side of the brain. In Italy we are surrounded by literal pieces of history and it seems that what we read in history books can be also observed around us. But do Italians read enough?

Statistical results

According to a research conducted by Doxa — a market research industry — Italians are a population of readers. The important finding is that Italians do not only read a lot, but largely purchase used books. Results also found that books are the third main product purchased after furniture and automobiles. Finally, it seems that, during the period of research, every ten minutes a book was bought on, a well known website to purchase used items in Italy. However, this was only a 1000-person study.

ISTAT, the main source of statistical information, discovered that the number of books sold is in decline. In 2017, among 1.459 active editors and publishing houses, 85 percent does not publish over 50 titles a year and over half of smaller editors launch only 10. The biggest publishing houses release over 50 titles a year, but they represent only 15 precent of the working editors publishing 80 precent of the books on the market, with 90 percent of the hard copies sold. The reason for this decline seems to be mostly justified in lack of time. Men generally read less than women at every age and these results are affected by the education level, where it seems that both men and women who have a lower education certification will read less than people who have a degree or higher.

The president of the Italian Editors Association, Ricardo Franco Levi, believes that among people there is a general disinterest in reading. “Time is only an excuse where, as an activity, reading is placed within a context that sees it as something not positive.”

When students read in public libraries

A report by Openpolis showed that public libraries can help decrease poverty. Indeed, children with access to free books can expand and facilitate their education and contribute to a general knowledge that can turn out to be useful with age. Furthermore, libraries can be a location where young people can reunite and socialize, reinforcing that sense of community which can often be useful in those circumstances of economic crisis, giving students a safe and quiet place to sit and spend some time together.

What about other forms of knowledge?

Nonetheless, data collected by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities highlight that, compared to the previous year, in 2017 museums in 7 out of 16 regions recorded an overall increase in visitors. And they cannot be all foreigners, can they? Italians might not be great readers, but this does not mean that they are not interested in the beauty around us. After all, despite respecting any form of writing, one’s interest in culture and knowledge should not only be measured in books, otherwise we might say that culture is also embedded in a pieces of writing like 50 Shades of Gray.

We can then say that reading is a choice. It can intend someone’s ability to understand a text over another — an activity frequently influenced by the level of education — but knowledge is another thing.

Knowledge is understanding what one’s reading and grasping its existence. As a book worm myself, I found some books to figurately give me life. Peace. Happiness. Sadness. But others prefer to visit museums and live with other kinds of knowledge. The awareness that a monument, artifact, or any piece of art can be sending a message hidden to all of us. Unique messages that differ from person to person, because it’s not about understanding the art in front of us, but the message within us. Culture and knowledge are made by each individual as a whole among our society.

Creating new culture

Now — let’s read though. We can certainly understand better what’s around us by learning about what we’re looking at. So, Italians may not be great readers and that could be the only thing that is stopping us from achieving the true sense of art and literature. Authors give books a life, we must give this living culture within literature a push and bring it out, bring further culture for the future generations.

But how can we continue to be creative if we cannot appreciate other forms of art? Culture is passed onto generations, but culture is also created. Reading to learn about now and creating for the time to come to transform this activity, is an active practice rather than a passive one.