Podcast: Where To Find New Readers

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Rob and Kate discuss recent initiatives to encourage new readers, including National Libraries Day, new Quick Reads books for 2013, World Book Day and Night and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2013.

Continue reading “Podcast: Where To Find New Readers”

Q&A with Cathy Rentzenbrink of Quick Reads

We spoke to Cathy Rentzenbrink, Project Director at Quick Reads, about the history of Quick Reads, who they are aimed at and what she’s reading now.

Can you tell us a little about the history of Quick Reads?

Quick Reads is part of World Book Day and was founded by Dame Gail Rebuck, CEO of Random House in 2006 and is supported by Galaxy chocolate. We commission short books by bestselling authors to help get lapsed readers or people lacking in confidence in their reading skills back into reading for pleasure.

Who are Quick Reads books aimed at?

They are written and edited to be full of action and emotion but with some of the barriers removed to be easier to read for the less confident. They are also really good for people who can technically read but haven’t read for pleasure for a long time. One of my favourite quotes is from a very nice lady who said, ‘I felt like a had climbed a mountain but was so proud as it was the first proper book I’d read.’

How important are bookshops to Quick Reads?

Extremely important!

Visiting and feeling comfortable in a bookshop is seen as a really important stage in the development of an emergent reader’s skills. Tutors organise trips to book shops with their learners. Quick Reads are used by English for Speakers of other Languages, often migrants arriving here needing to get up to speed in English, but they are also really great for tourists who speak English but may not be fully confident readers. I would definitely buy Quick Reads in French if I could, as I’m a bit rusty and just find it too much like hard work to pick up something long, especially if the narrative point of views are jumping around and making it difficult for me to follow. As I’m a really confident reader in English it helps me get to grips with what it feel like not to be by thinking about how I manage with French and what puts me off.

Quick Reads are also read by people who have been readers but whose circumstances have changed. These include new mums, people coping with illness including undergoing chemotherapy which plays horrible havoc with the attention span, the elderly and I had a wonderful chat with someone recently whose mother had taught herself to read again after a stroke by using Quick Reads.

Possibly the biggest thing though is that a large part of what we are trying to do is enable people to take part in a mainstream cultural experience. We get so much feedback that it is important to our readers that they are reading a ‘proper’ book. The more people that read and enjoy Quick Reads, the less stigmatised people will feel because a Quick Reads is all that they can manage at this stage on their learning journey.

How did you get involved in the project?

I’ve always been interested in this area as my Dad couldn’t read well until he was 30 years old and didn’t read for pleasure until he retired – I coached him through, step by step! Quick Reads didn’t exist then but he moved from reading the sports section of a paper, to sports biographies, to short thrillers. Now he reads everything except the most complex literary fiction. I’m very proud of him, for lots of reasons, and it means I have a lot of first hand, practical experience of the causes and effects of low literacy and also of the hugely transformative effect of reading for pleasure.

In practical terms I was enjoying working for Waterstones, where I spent 10 years, and wasn’t looking for a new job but someone who had heard me speak about literacy told me about it and said ‘this is made for you!’

Quick Reads always has popular authors writing new stories for them. If you could have any author writing one for you, dead or alive, who would it be?

What a good question!

I think I would try to encourage Victor Hugo to write me something short but along the same themes as Les Miserables, which I have always loved and sobbed through at the cinema last week. I think writing that encourages us to empathise with people who may not have had our advantages is always a good thing and I love books that make me cry and make me feel that I have walked a mile in another person’s shoes .

What are you reading at the moment?

I work for Quick Reads for three days a week and spend the rest of my time writing about new fiction for The Bookseller so I’m always reading a few months ahead. I’m reading for my June feature and there are a lot of good thrillers out there at the moment. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty is an exceptional literary thriller – beware of pretty strangers!

Quick Reads aims to improve adult literacy skills and encourage the uptake of reading. The 2013 Galaxy Quick Reads books will be available from bookstores and online from 14 February, for more information visit http://www.quickreads.org.uk/  

Rob Chilver

Introducing Quick Reads

imageI first encountered Quick Reads around four years ago when I began my career as a bookseller. I’d spotted the books on a shelf and quickly (pun intended) became intrigued. A regular customer would come in every week and head straight for the Quick Reads shelves, always leaving with a new title. Over time he read them all and when I enquired, he said what he enjoyed about them was that they reintroduced him to reading, something which he had found quite difficult in the past. Not only did they entertain him, they also helped to regain his confidence in reading. These short, snappy books by big name authors were just what he needed to rediscover the love of the written word once more.

So I’m delighted to say that Quick Reads have six new titles hitting the shelves today. 12 million adults in the UK find reading difficult and may never pick up a book. Some people that I’ve spoken to say they can find books rather intimidating, thinking they are ‘not for them’ or that books are simply difficult or worse boring. Quick Reads strongly believe that reading should be for everyone and so commission new stories from big name authors. They are the same as mainstream books but are simply shorter and easier to tackle for adults who are less confident in their reading skills. What’s even better is that each one is only £1!

So what are this year’s titles?

Love is Blind by Kathy Lette

When Jane decides to move to the Australian outback in search of a husband, her sister Anthea thinks she’s mad. But the sisters have never seen eye-to-eye. Anthea is slim, beautiful and has a perfect life and fiancé. Jane has always felt like the ugly duckling in comparison.

But when Anthea tries to save Jane from this latest crazy plan, she ends up taking a walk on the wild side herself…

A Sea Change by Veronica Henry

Jenna is known as The Ice Cream Girl.

She doesn’t mind the name one bit. After all, there are far worse jobs than selling ice creams by the sea. Then one hot summer’s day, everything changes and Jenna faces the most difficult decision of her life.

Craig spends as much time as he can at the beach hut in Everdene he rents with a few of his mates. It’s the perfect break from his stressful job, and he loves to surf. But one weekend he notices a girl on the beach – for all the wrong reasons.

For Jenna and Craig, it’s a chance meeting which could change their lives forever …

A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters

Based on a true story…

Caroline Luard is shot dead in broad daylight in the grounds of a large country estate. With few clues available, her husband soon becomes the suspect … But is he guilty?

Bringing to life the people involved in this terrible crime, bestselling author Minette Walters uses modern detective skills to attempt to solve a 100-year-old crime.

Today Everything Changes by Andy McNab

Abandoned as a baby, Andy McNab’s start in life was tough. He grew up in South London with foster parents, and poverty on all sides. Andy attended seven schools in as many years, disillusioned and in remedial classes. Before long before his life was one of petty crime. By the age of sixteen, he was in juvenile detention.

 Recruited into the Army from there, it soon became clear that he had the reading age of an eleven year old. The next six months in the Army education system changed the course of his life forever. Today Everything Changes is the inspiring story of when life changed for the better for now bestselling author Andy McNab.

Wrong Time, Wrong Place by Simon Kernick

You are hiking in the Scottish highlands with three friends when you come across a girl.

 She is half-naked, has been badly beaten, and she can’t speak English.

She is clearly running away from someone.

Do you stop to help her? Even if it means putting your friends’ lives – and your own – in terrible danger?

Doctor Who: The Silurian Gift by Mike Tucker

‘My new Fire-Ice will solve all the problems of the planet!’

 The world is on the brink of crisis. As fuel runs short, society begins to break down. One man seems to have the answer. But is it too good to be true? The Doctor arrives at an old oil refinery near the South Pole, concerned by claims about this new form of energy. He soon discovers something huge and terrifying is stalking the refinery.  It brings death and destruction in its wake. The battle has begun for planet Earth.

Tomorrow we’ll have an interview with Cathy Rentzenbrink, Project Director at Quick Reads, while on Monday we’ll be discussing Quick Reads, libraries, children’s reading and more in the podcast!

Quick Reads can be found at all good bookshops and online for £1 each. To find out more, visit the Quick Reads website.

Rob Chilver