That Japanese public libraries are thriving may come as no surprise to anyone, but an education ministry report found that the number of books checked out by elementary school children from the 3,274 public libraries nationwide reached an average of 26 per child in fiscal 2010. That is up from 18.8 in 2007, a significant and commendable upswing to the highest level ever. The total number of books checked out by all people was also at a peak of 663.6 million books nationwide.

Of course, more books are checked out from libraries in part because of the economic downturn and because libraries changed their rules to allow more books to be checked out at one time. Libraries also have increased educational books using manga for young readers.

Clearly, books still exert a formative influence on young people. Every child in a library is reading more instead of playing video games, watching TV or taking practice tests at cram school.