Information about Children and Books in Japan

Movements for the Promotion of Children's Reading in Japan, 1990'-

【2002-KN001】

In Japan, big movements have occurred for promoting children's reading. Many people have gotten involved in the movement and made efforts for providing children a better environment supporting their voluntary reading.

This year, the results of the OECD Program for PISA(Programme for International Student Assessment)I in 2000 was released and many Japanese have been just shocked at the news. According to it, Japanese students of these days do not spend much reading time for enjoyment. According to the report, Japan is one of the countries where more than 40% students do not read for enjoyment at all. This tendency, seen not only in the report but also in Japanese schools and families, has been widely recognized as problematic. This made citizens and several Diet members realize the need for working on promoting children's reading.

One of the first symbolic efforts was the decision of the establishment of the International Library of Children's Literature(ILCL), as a branch of the National Diet Library(NDL). In 1995, a group of the Diet members started working on the establishment of the ILCL, and a NGO also started working for supporting the effort. In May 1996, the basic plan for the ILCL was formulated, and in January 1997, the Planning Office of ILCL was established.

Another symbolic initial accomplishment was the amendment of the School Library Law in 1997. The School Library Law was promulgated in 1953 and it prescribes all schools shall have school libraries and school librarians(shisyo-kyoyu holding both teacher and school librarian certifications). However, the supplementary provision II of the School Library Law prescribes schools may not have school librarians for the time, which provision was made considering the conditions of those days that local governments and schools suffered poverty, but the supplementary provision was not amended for half a century. But it was finally amended in June 1997 and the new provision prescribes all schools of more than 12 classrooms shall appoint school librarians before April 2003. Several other measures also specially has budgeted for improving school library books and facilities.

In August 1999, both the upper and lower houses of the Japanese Diet adopted resolutions of making the year 2000 as the National Year of Reading for Children. This led a big public movement for the promotion of children's reading. The resolution of the lower house says "Interacting with books, children learn language, heighten sensitivity, enhance expressive power, expand imagination, and learn to live through the life more deeply. Recognizing the invaluableness of reading, the government should make the year 2000 when the ILCL was established as 'The Year of Reading for Children' and implement appropriate measures intensively and comprehensively for supporting children's reading activities nationally." And the upper house adopted the similar resolution as well. Actually, on January 1 of 2000, ILCL was officially established, and on May 5, Children's Day in Japan, the library partially opened. Besides that, throughout the year of 2000, there were many promotional campaigns and activities seen all over Japan. For example, during the year, about 2000 schools started morning reading time for getting children have reading habit(data in Japanese available from http://www.mediapal.co.jp/asadoku/). Bookstart campaign of distributing books to new parents for letting children enjoy books from babyhood, which was popular among UK local governments, was also introduced in the year(information in Japanese available from http://www.bookstart.net/bs_dokusho.html).

As the National Year of Reading for Children ended, there were voices of needs and wants expressed to continue efforts promoting children's reading. Then, in the following year, in December 2001, Law on the Promotion of Reading Activities for Children was promulgated. The purpose of the Law is prescribed under the first section as "progressing measures regarding the promotion of Children's reading activities comprehensively and designedly, and as a result serving for the children's healthy development." The Law prescribes each responsibility of the national and local governments, businesses, parents and guardians, and related institutions such as schools and libraries for implementing measures and activities to promote children's reading, and also prescribes April 23 as the Day of Reading for Children in Japan. It is widely hoped that nationwide various efforts continue. This May 5, complete facilities of the ILCL were opened, and the library is now expected to be the very center of supporting those efforts as a national center.

Reference(in English):

  • Mariko Ogawa. "Panel session: Books for children and young people," Proceeding of the 26th Congress of the International Publishers Association, 2000.
  • APPREB. "Trends in Books and Reading, Japan: Morning Reading Time at Schools, September 2001,".
  • Izumi Sato. "Bookstart: Sharing Books from Babyhood,"Japanese Book News, No.35, Fall 2001, p.3-5.