Public readings. The reading of popular books to audiences of illiterate or semiliterate people, practiced in the Russian Empire in the 19th century as a form of extramural education. The materials read were literary works, historical or geographical studies, essays on science or religion, and practical guides to farming, co-operative enterprise, or hygiene. In Ukraine the first public readings were organized in Poltava in 1861. They were prohibited by the authorities and were revived only in the 1870s. They became particularly popular in Kyiv and Kharkiv. From 1882 they were organized by a special commission in Kyiv. In rural areas they were organized by zemstvos. By the end of the 19th century public readings were widespread and popular. They were conducted only in Russian and were closely monitored by the authorities. After 1906 readers were permitted to recount the substance of books in their own words, and occasionally works of Ukrainian writers were read. Public readings were also a common activity of popular educational societies (most notably Prosvita) in Western Ukraine.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]