Programmes to mark the fifth National Book Week, which is themed “Going places”, will take place from 1 to 7 September.
Minister Mthethwa said National Book Week was established after a study revealed that “reading was not our favourite national past time”.
He said more than half of the households don’t have books.
“We had to respond to this indictment and start engaging on activities that cultivate literacy and a widespread culture of reading.
“Literacy underpins development in various aspects of life and a heightened culture of reading is a fundamental ingredient in the creation of a prosperous society,” Minister Mthethwa said.
Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said 49 percent of books were published in English, 45 percent in Afrikaans and 6 percent was shared among the nine indigenous languages.
“This deep imbalance manifests itself in many different ways including economic beneficiation,” Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said.
She said the Department of Arts and Culture would continue to work with the National Library of South Africa to identify and reprint books regarded as literary classics in South African languages.
The project responsible for reprinting books in South African languages was launched in February 2008 with 27 books.
“To date a total of 77 titles have been reprinted in all the nine indigenous languages. The books are distributed via community libraries for access by the public,” Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said.
The South African Book Development CEO Elitha Van Der Sandt said only about 40 percent of people read books in South Africa and only one percent bought books.
Van Der Sandt said people did not read because books were expensive, too difficult to read or the libraries were far away.
“The low reading numbers, the low book buying numbers point to the fact that we are still primarily producing for the existing market and that needs to change in order to get more people reading, in order to get more people writing, in order get more diverse people as producers and managers of the book industry,” she said.
Van Der Sandt said it was important to provide incentives and financial schemes to support the book industry.
“We are hoping that one day we can have a book industry development plan because it quite an important industry,” she said.
Angeba Ndaba, 11, said she loved reading because it gave her a better understanding of the world.
“I love reading because it enriches my brain. When I don’t understand what the teacher is teaching, I go to my books and find out more,” Angeba said.
Tanika Rodrigues, 11, said her favourite book was The Mirrors at Barnard Hall.
She said reading was more interesting than watching movies.
“Reading teaches me how to spell big words,” Tanika said.