Growing readers or selling BMWs
We all know reading is a habit, one acquired early in life if you're lucky enough to be born into a family or readers. I know that's where I got the bug -- reading the funny papers on my dad's lap, and later listening to my teachers read "Charlotte's Web" and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.
But I'm a child of the fifties, a different world and a different mindset. And I'm worried that readers are an endangered species and no one knows how to save them.
I don't see much evidence that anyone in publishing is thinking outside the box about how to make things better. So it always shocks me when I hear about something that seems like a good idea.
Like Quick Reads.
You probably haven't heard about it. It's a new program over in the United Kingdom. It's a joint initiative of publishers, booksellers and writers. They are going to publish 12 paperbacks next month by bestselling authors. But these books are short (128 pages max, fast-paced and compulsively readable. They'll sell for about five bucks and cross genres from mysteries, romance and fantasy to self-help and football. Before you dismiss this as Reading For Mouth-Breathers, check out some of the authors:
The target audience is "emergent readers and adult learners." So it is obviously a calculated attempt to appeal to those folks who might ordinarily find your average novel too intimidating or difficult. But I don't think it's a dumbing-down for the edges of the literate. It is a smart campaign to grow readers who, once hooked into the magic of the imagination, might move on to ever more challenging fare.
The first Quick Reads debut in the UK March 2 on World Book Day. Another 10 will follow in May in honor of Adult Learners Month. All with a big publicity push and major outreach campaigns for teachers, librarians and tutors. The books will be available in bookstores, supermarkets, libraries -- well, anywhere you'd find your basic James Patterson.
What a great idea. Leave it to the Brits.
I'd love to have one of my books in this project. But I'm not published in the UK and I don't see anyone in the U.S. setting up such a program. Here, Random House gives us their bestselling authors linking up with BMW to write product-placement audio books to sell luxury cars.
But I just figured out why I really felt compelled to write this blog entry. See, I have this brochure in my drawer. It's been there for years. It's from the Broward County Library Association “Each One Teach One,” program. It's our local adult literacy program and they're always looking for tutors. I've been wanting to volunteer for years, but I've always found reasons not to.
But I don't have time. Just like so many folks don't have time to read.
If I want more readers, maybe I have to get off my butt and help grow a couple.