Here's my attempt at a stalker picture. No, not really. This is at the small neighborhood club, and specifically in the small playground. I am spying through one of the tree trunks at a young girl, probably age 13 or so who is absolutely and totally absorbed in her book. Kids are running around her, yelling, playing with sand (she is leaning on the sand box) and once in a while someone will stop and look over her shoulder and watch her read for a moment then spin off again.
This scene struck me so strongly because I never see people reading books here. Okay, "never" is a very strong word but it is rare. I took a 20 minute train ride on Monday where not a single person (except me--I'm reading The Casual Vacancy) was reading a printed anything. Everyone was listening to ipods or cell phones, or staring blankly into the air. Where are the books here? Even on the beaches, you don't see people reading. Socializing, perusing a magazine or a newspaper, maybe. Never a book. And I am including kindles and nooks and ipads, okay?
I am not dreaming, it turns out. Recent research by Instituto Pro-Livro (Pro-book Institute) shows that Brazilians read only 4.7 books a year. 62.3% of Brazilians have not read a book in the last three months. I find books very expensive here: the equivalent of US$20 for a small paperback. Think about that cost when monthly salaries are about US$300/month. About 21% of these Brazilian book readers get their book from a library, another 18% from school. I can only imagine how this splits out socio-economically.
One of the reasons I volunteer as a reading mum in my kids' school is because I loved reading as a child. I would have been that girl in the playground. I would have had my nose stuck in a book on the train. I know of no greater escape.