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World Book Day promotes Quick Reads

26 February 2007

This week we will celebrate the tenth World Book Day on 1 March. In the UK there will be the usual book tokens for children and a new chance to help nominate the Ten Books You Can't Live Without, but the most significant initiative is the ongoing development of the Quick Reads list. This attempt to do something substantial to encourage slow and emergent readers is now in its second year.

Low levels of adult literacy and the large number of non-readers are international problems. Action Aid International's research shows that nearly a billion adults around the world cannot read and write. Many more have low levels of literacy and constitute the substantial proportion of people in each country who do not read books.

In the UK, which has a worse record than most western European countries but a slightly better one than the US, this constitutes 12 million people of working age who have literacy skills below or equal to those expected of a 13-year-old. This impacts on their lives, including their employment prospects, massively, but it also affects their children, who grow up without seeing books in the home or feeling that they are an essential part of life.

The Quick Reads are designed to attract a range of non-readers, including those who have never picked up a book and are discovering reading, slow readers who have been put off by the length of many books, and those who feel they have no time to read.

Last year it looks as if some of the titles by bestselling authors (who included big names such as Maeve Binchy, Joanna Trollope and Ruth Rendell) were not quite right for this non-reading audience, so in 2007 the list focuses more heavily on non-fiction, with five out of the eight new titles falling into that category. The books are designed to be short and easily accessible, to encourage people who are not good readers to give them a go.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the initiative is that a lot of the support material is online and can be accessed anywhere in the world. The books can be bought not only from UK retailers, who have been generous in their support, but also from

There's also an online toolkit for library staff. The Five Minutes reading promotion encourages fathers by suggesting books they will enjoy sharing with their children as well as reading for themselves. There are separate materials for each title in the list, both the backlist and the new books, creating a handy online resource.

Quick Reads will not solve the world's problems, but they do provide a way to start engaging the millions of adults who have missed out on the sheer pleasure of reading. They help to give access to the rich content books can offer, in terms of providing information and stimulating the imagination.

Quick Reads 2007

Downloadable resources

World Book Day

ActionAid International