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Student workbooks flying off shelves amid Japan's coronavirus school closures

JIJI

Student workbooks are flying off bookstore shelves in response to the emergency school closures requested by the government to slow down the coronavirus outbreak.

Parents say they are buying the workbooks, which typically contain practice problems and other learning-related content, as homework for their children so they don’t fall behind in their schoolwork and to help keep them occupied.

According to a ranking of book sales for the week to March 1, announced by major book brokerage firm Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc., or Nippan, the top 100 included 17 workbooks and study guides. No such book was on the prior week’s top 100 list. Comic books and paperbacks are not included in the ranking.

Sales were particularly robust for workbooks designed for students in the first couple of grades in elementary school that help them look back on what they learned in the past year.

On Feb. 28, one day after the government requested the temporary school closures, a flagship Maruzen bookstore in the Marunouchi district in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, saw sales of workbooks for preschoolers and elementary school students jump over threefold from a year before.

Sales of study guides for junior high and high school students have surged since the beginning of March. Pictorial books and children’s books are also selling well, according to the bookstore.

Miwa Goto, 44, a part-time worker from Ota Ward, Tokyo, said that she visited the bookstore after work to buy a workbook for her daughter, who is in the fifth grade.

Describing how the school closure came suddenly and that her daughter was not given any homework, Goto said, “I’ll come here again to buy another workbook after she finishes this one.”

Seiko Umemoto, 41, a corporate worker from Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, came to the bookstore with her two daughters — a first grader and a kindergartner — and bought more than 10 items, including a math workbook.

“My children have too much time on their hands as their after-school activities have been canceled,” she said. “I hope they will take this opportunity to enjoy the workbooks and reading books.”

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