Literary competitions, free book giveaways and public readings are among the offerings at a National Reading Day lead-up event starting on March 9, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesperson Ros Soveacha told The Post on Wednesday.

The three-day event is to take place at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and end on National Reading Day on March 11.

“Cambodian youth should read to improve their quality of life,” Soveacha said, adding that the government emphasised “the importance of human-resource development to transform the Kingdom’s society into a more progressive one, such as that of developed countries”.

Held under the theme Lifelong Learning Starts With Reading, this year’s event will mark the fourth National Reading Day since it was first celebrated in 2016.

The government issued a sub-decree on September 14, 2015 establishing March 11 as National Reading Day. One reason for this date, Soveacha said, was because it is the day Supreme Patriarch of the Mohanikaya Buddhist Order and Khmer literature master Chuon Nath was born.

The move was intended to remind people of Nath’s heroism in protecting Khmer literature during the era of French colonial rule, he said.

Soveacha added that the National Reading Day celebrations aim to nurture good reading habits and improve writing skills and cultural awareness, particularly among students and government workers.

Literary competitions, such as poetry reading and writing, will give participants the opportunity to win the Samdech Techo Hun Sen Cup, he said. An array of reading events will also take place across a number of public and private education institutions.

Proeung Pranit, president of Khmer Writers Association, said he had noticed growing interest in reading among the youth.

“More and more students seem to have turned their attention to reading over the past couple of years. We strive to encourage them to like books.”

He noted that the upward trend was reflected at the 2018 Book Fair held in December last year.

A total transaction of more than $10,000 worth of books was recorded during the weekend event held on the grounds of the National Library in Phnom Penh, he said, while 80,000 free copies of three books were distributed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Two of them were written by famous Cambodian authors Krom Ngoy and Ou Chhong, with the other a collection of Cambodian stories on dharma – Buddhist doctrine.

Earlier on Monday, Hun Sen signed a directive instructing “participation from officials, civil servants, police officers, soldiers, students, intellectuals, monks and everybody else to actively participate in National Reading Day by creating good reading habits and joining the nationwide movement to encourage reading”.