Title: The Problem of Children’s Disengagement from Reading in Japan from the 1990s to the Present: Causes and Countermeasures
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Irina Novoselova, Kansai University, Japan
The problem of aliteracy, or the declining interest in reading among Japanese children and adolescents (known as kodomo no dokusho-banare) had become acute by the beginning of the 1990s and, despite ongoing efforts to eradicate it, continues to exist, prompting concern and debate not only among the literati, critics, and publishers but also within governmental agencies. However, despite the gravity of the problem, its theoretical aspects remain relatively unaddressed, with scholarly focus mainly being concentrated on statistical data analysis and survey examinations (Murata, 2001; Fujii et al., 2010). This study aims to partly fill in this lacuna by investigating the potential causes of children’s aliteracy in Japan (between approx. 1990 and 2017) and critically assessing the hitherto implemented countermeasures. One of the primary sources of information for this study is the underappreciated Shinchosha’s Literary Almanac (Bungei Nenpan). This annual contains not only statistical data and reports on publications but also invaluable critical essays by writers and scholars. The findings of the study suggest that apart from the frequently cited low birth rates and adverse effects of social networking sites, juvenile aliteracy in Japan is also the result of the uniformity of literary genres and the blurred boundaries between adult’s and children’s literature. The research also argues that the countermeasures taken by the government and publishers do not target all four factors and therefore remain insufficient.
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