We are very pleased to have a guest blogger, Osman Coban, writing about reading in his country and specifically about the reading choices of Turkish adolescents. We think that readers will find it illuminating to compare what is happening in this area in different places around the world. In particular, it is interesting to consider Turkey alongside Mexico, given that they are both considered to be part of the “MINT” emerging economies group (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). However, while it may be true that they are on an upward economic turn, we must not forget that the increasing wealth and advantages do not benefit all the population and that there are still many serious problems and unresolved conflicts in all these countries which affect education and reading, as Osman reminds us in the text below.
Osman is doing his PhD on this topic, at the University of Glasgow, funded by a scholarship from the Turkish Government. Last year he was successful in obtaining one of the IBBY-UK bursaries to attend and present a poster at the IBBY International Congress in Mexico. At the moment, he is “in the field”, collecting data through a variety of methods, working with young people in schools. We are grateful that he managed to find some time to write this blog for us.
I believe that this Head teacher’s
memories about reading represent a brief summary of reading history in Turkey
in the second half of the 20th century. Between 1950 and 1990,
politics had a significant effect on young readers’ reading habits and choices.
In addition, there were only a handful of authors who wrote for children and
young people and few translations of children’s and young adult (YA) texts from
other countries. The didactic attitude of the authors was a key factor in the
construction of these stories. A
Even if the lack of economic wealth limits the publishing market in Turkey, there has been a distinct rise in the availability of children’s and young adult’s texts from both Turkish and World authors. This has brought a positive acceleration in the reading rate of young readers. Specifically, the translation of popular YA texts has opened a new field of reading in the country because there are not many Turkish authors who write for this age or, perhaps, because the authors who write YA literature are ‘not as good as foreign authors’, an opinion expressed by ‘Tess’ (the nickname of a girl w ho participated in my project - she is a fan of Tess Gerritsen).
Regarding my own project, I am interested in the reading choices of adolescents in Turkey and the effects of these reading choices. I am conducting surveys, interviews and carrying out reading activities with readers in the second year of secondary in Adana province, in Southern Turkey. For the reading activities, I offer a list of Turkish and World classics as well as contemporary popular fiction to the participants. They choose one of them to read. If they want to read any other book which is not included in the list, they can do so as well. They identify the chapter they liked most and explain why, then the other participants read the chapter and they all discuss it. During these sessions, a total of 10 books will be discussed by two groups of five students.
At the beginning of the 21st century, although the overall literacy rate in Turkey was high (92.9%), only 4% of the population said they read books as part of their daily life. Poverty and conflict have been the other reasons for this low reading rate. Almost half the children in Turkey have to work as well as going to school. In the eastern region of Turkey there has been conflict since 1990, due to a complex political and ethnic situation and Kurdish children in particular have been living under difficult conditions (Robinson, 2010; Yegen, 2006). In addition to household chores, the many of them also have to work as farm labourers during the summer term in different parts of the country. In addition, nearly half the workers in Turkey earn the minimum wage: 949 TL (approximately 360USD) (CSGB, 2015; Sabah, 2012 and it is almost impossible spend any of this money on books because this money is hardly enough for the basic needs of a family. Another reason is the high price of books, as Isfendiyar, who is 17 years old and one of the students in my project, explained.