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TV Show The Reader Credited for Creating Surge in Reading Popularity

April 20, 2017

An unusual Chinese television program, The Reader, in which contestants provide a three-minute long audio recording reading their favorite poem or a passage from a book, is causing a major upsurge in interest in reading for pleasure in the country.

On April 14th, more than a hundred university students stood in a long line in front of the Reading Pavilion at Wuhan University to make their recording for the show. Similar scenes have been taking place in China's first-tier cities of BeijingShanghaiGuangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as in several second-tier cities, among them, Hangzhou, Kunming and Xi'an. Recently, public reading events has become a craze across China. 

A little boy with a book for reading in The Reading Pavilion (PRNewsfoto/CCTV The Reader Program Set)

The unprecedented upsurge in an interest in reading has been driven, more than anything, by The Reader, a television variety show launched two months earlier. In every episode, five to seven groups of readers from different areas selected are invited onto the show where they will share their personal stories and read a passage from a literary classic that holds special meaning for them.

A line of people in Kun‘ming waiting to enter the Reading Pavilion (PRNewsfoto/CCTV The Reader Program Set)

As producer and host of the program, popular Chinese anchor Dong Qing has brought her years of experience in broadcast television to the show. Backed by the inspiring stage design created by Ms. Dong and her sophisticated production team, the culturally-relevant content of the program resonates deeply with the show's Chinese audiences. Soon after the first episode was broadcast, similar reading events started popping up all over the country, especially in military barracks and on school and college campuses.

As an important setting of the program, the Reading Pavilions are specialized mobile recording studios outfitted with simple recording and sound insulation equipment and are open to anyone with a favorite literary passage and the desire to give a voice to the words in the passage. Reading Pavilions are making their way through many of China's first- and second-tier cities. Wherever a Reading Pavilion has made a stop, it has immediately drawn the attention of the local citizenry and become a focus of the local media. Aspiring readers, a relatively even mix of men and women spanning all age groups and walks of life, have gathered in long lines outside the mobile recording studios for their chance to read a meaningful, favorite passage. The Reading Pavilions have not only stimulated a renewed interest among the public in reading, but also provides them with a platform for expressing something important that they have gained from a reconnection with this simple and time-honored pastime.