Viet Nam News
by An Phương
Reading books to the elderly, patients in hospitals, and the visually impaired has become a popular part-time job for young adults in HCM City.
The demand for book readers is surprisingly high, with the internet making it easier for readers and listeners to meet.
In fact, it is common to see “looking for book readers” on timviecnhanh.com, vietnamplus.com, vietlam24h.vn, and other websites.
Nguyễn Thị Lan, 21, a student at HCM City Pedagogical University, told Sài Gòn Tiếp Thị (Sài Gòn Marketing) newspaper that she began reading for others while taking care of a relative in the hospital.
As Lan was reading a book during her free time, older patients at the hospital asked her to read for them.
“Initially, I didn’t think of earning money, but the listeners began to pay me as I began to read to them more often. Book reading gradually became my source of income,” she said.
Initially, she started reading to friends, and then later friends of friends, usually for VNĐ40 – 50,000 (US$1.8 – 2.2) per hour, earning about VNĐ2 million (US$88) per month.
In addition to going to people’s homes, Lan also visits Gia Định People’s Hospital, People’s Hospital 115 and Hùng Vương Hospital to read to patients.
Thu Cúc, also a student, said that book reading was appealing to those who love reading books.
“If you’re not interested in reading books and you’re not a patient person, you can’t sit and read for hours,” she said.
Besides an interest in books, readers also need to speak clearly and softly to retain listeners’ interest for two to three hours, according to Thanh Hảo, 20, a student at the University of Economics.
“It seems like an easy job but, in fact, it’s not! But I love it since I can earn extra money and have an opportunity to read rare and valuable books that I previously could not access,” Hảo said.
Many listeners, mostly older people and patients, said they were thrilled to be able to listen to their favourite books and have enthusiastic discussions with the readers.
“The hospital now seems like a friendlier, nicer place to stay as I have something else to do rather than staying in bed,” said Kim Quý, 56, adding that she had made friends with some readers.
“I feel younger and more alive,” she said.
Phi, 65, who lives in Tân Bình District, said she used to have relatives read to her, but then asked for a paid reader after hearing about the service.
Minh, from Tân Phú District, said his daughter had formed a passion for books ever since he hired a reader for her.
“I found the service to be reasonably priced. My reader loves kids and she’s very helpful. I tend to tip her since my house is quite far from hers,” he said.
Head for business: A patient gets a sampling of Dale Carnegie. Reading books for a fee has become a popular part-time job for university students in HCM City. Photo sgtiepthi.vn
As fun and easy as it may sound, readers like Cúc and Hảo have encountered a few problems.
“Clients tend to be specific with their requests, such as book titles and reading duration, but some of them, after I show up at their house, ask me to read different materials,” Hảo said. “I was asked by an elderly man to read an erotic book when the agreement was to read a romantic novel!”
Cúc said that she once showed up to a client only to find that she had to read to a three- to four-year-old child.
Though reading for children is not difficult, she said she disliked having to act as a babysitter.
Some readers who had been booked to read for seven-year-olds discovered they had been hired to be tutors as well.
Despite the challenges, it is still important for paid readers to be considerate and straightforward when dealing with clients to avoid unnecessary arguments.
“Most of the time I will turn down offers that require me to read after 9pm at private houses,” Hảo said, adding that she prefers to read to children and that her favourite genres are scientific books, children’s books and novels.
“I’ll continue to pursue the job since it’s flexible and I’ve found joy bringing joy to people in need of the service,” she said. VNS