As regular readers of this blog will know, I started back at work just over 5-weeks ago after having had a year off on maternity leave (which was bliss by the way!). I work in PR for a large agency in central London and am lucky enough to work on some pretty cool, pretty interesting things. When I first started back this January, my first main project to get up-to-speed on was a campaign for Quick Reads, a World Book Day initiative.
It’s not my intention to use my blog to publicise the campaigns I work on in my professional capacity, but Quick Reads is a bit different and hence I’m writing this post. A charitable initiative, Quick Reads are a range of fast-paced, easy to read, bite-sized books by bestselling authors and celebrities. They are designed to ignite passion for reading and are widely used as a resource with people who find reading tough, or for those who may simply believe they’re too busy for books. These are not abridged versions of existing novels, they are all new stories and include fiction and non-fiction alike, and are priced at an incredibly reasonable £1.99.
I have always loved books. I did my degree in English Literature & Italian – which involved A LOT of reading. As a child I devoured books, in fact I think I read Alice in Wonderland about 5 times, and loved it anew with each time. But I will admit, as I’ve got older and work life sort of took over, pretty much the only time I would pick up a book would be when we went on holiday. In fact on holiday, I would get into “competitive reading” with Richmond Daddy and we’d try to individually get through as many books as we could in a 2-week break in an odd bid to out-do each other… strange, but true… we are both pretty competitive it would seem (even when on holiday!). When I went on maternity leave, I had grand plans to use my time pre baby’s arrival to read War & Peace. I never did, but the intention was there. I think instead I just watched DVD box-sets and read trashy magazines… ahem. Then, in February 2011, Richmond Baby finally arrived in our lives, and then the only books I ever had to hand were by Gina Ford and the Baby Whisperer. I devoured those books, but they weren’t exactly fun reading, think more a manual.
Anyway, when I started back at work, on this campaign, it occurred to me that I hadn’t read a book (other than something by Gina) for a whole year. That was pretty shocking. Particularly given my previous love of books. But let’s face it, as a new mum, who’s trying to juggle a million things (and who has a slight addiction to Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and Grey’s Anatomy), it’s hard to find the time. But, in two weeks after starting back at work, I had managed to read two of the new Galaxy Quick Reads books: Doctor Who – Magic of the Angels, by Jacqueline Rayner, and Quantum of Tweed – The Man with the Nissan Micra, by Conn Iggulden. And do you know what? it felt great! I remembered the joy that comes with losing yourself in a book and it gave me such pleasure to just switch off from everything – usually on my squashed train journey into work – and just read. I finished one book and immediately started on the next, and apparently that’s not so unusual, as around 80% of people who read a Galaxy Quick Read book go on to read another book straight away. I think it’s the sense of achievement you get at having completed one book that drives you on to pick up the next and it really does remind you of how reading really does enrich your life and spark your imagination.
So Galaxy Quick Reads are great for people like me who try to do too much and never have time to do everything, particularly read, as they are quick and manageable, but also great stories at the same time. But Galaxy Quick Reads are also ideal for people who struggle with reading and/or lack confidence in reading. Let me give you some facts…
Did you know that around 12 million people in the UK struggle with reading and writing? That’s 12m adults we’re talking and around one third of the population admit to never picking up a book to read. I think that’s pretty shocking. From the moment Richmond Baby came into the world, I have enjoyed reading to her and so has Richmond Daddy. Sure, she hasn’t exactly always been able to follow the story and she’s short on attention span – often moving to close the book when you’re only one page in! Some of her books are pretty dull I will admit – especially the ones that just say “cat”, “duck”, “penguin” – but we’ve graduated now onto more interesting literary tomes like Barry the Fish with Fingers and of course, the obligatory, The Gruffalo. But, now, at almost one year old, she is growing to absolutely love books.
In fact, whenever I pick her up from nursery I’m told of how she enjoyed sitting and flicking through books during the day and when we are in her playroom she points at her books and says “duh, duh” (which I take to mean “there, there”) as she demands me to pass her one.
I want my little girl to grow up loving books and taking great pleasure from reading. But not everyone has that instilled in them from a young age. For some, reading is regarded as pretty pointless or simply not that interesting, but being able to read and write well isn’t something that is a nice to have if you like that kind of thing. Being able to read and write well is something that will help ensure you can fulfil your maximum potential. Imagine how restricted you are if your literacy skills are on a par with an 11 year olds and you’re trying to fill in a form to apply for a job or you’re actually trying to hold down a job. That’s tough. And, it’s limiting – you’re unlikely to be able to go far in life and really achieve everything you are capable of if you struggle with reading and writing. That’s a fact.
There’s no silver bullet to solve this problem, but Quick Reads – a major initiative undertaken by the book trade and supported and sponsored by chocolate brand GALAXY® – reach out to some of the most struggling and economically deprived people across the UK and Ireland, to encourage them to take positive steps towards improving their literacy skills by picking up one of these books. The initiative has been going around 6 years and in 2012, the line up of books is fantastic, there are 8 new titles and they’re written by some of the world’s best including Tony Parsons, Alexander McCall Smith, Maeve Binchy, and Linda La Plante.
Many of us probably take being about to read and write well for granted, it’s just one of those things we all know how to do. But actually, we don’t all know how, and for those who don’t, or for those who struggle, it really limits their options in life. Galaxy Quick Reads recently undertook a study with The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and found that taking the UK literacy rate to 100% could provide a boost to the economy of over £70bn. They also found that it could increase personal income by up to £2,334 annually. So improving reading and writing skills isn’t just something to do for fun, it’s something that could really impact on earning potential.
Galaxy Quick Reads books have just gone on sale in high street bookstores and major supermarkets, and are available online and via iTunes. You can also find them in libraries. I seriously encourage you to seek them out and try them out – particularly if like me, you’ve fallen out of the habit of reading – and if you agree that this is a great initiative, please help spread the word by taking to Twitter and shouting-out about the joy of books and what reading means to you, adding the hashtag #quickreads.
The full line up of Galaxy Quick Reads books and authors for 2012 is…
Full House by Maeve Binchy (Orion)
The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown)
Quantum of Tweed: The Man with The Nissan Micra by Conn Iggulden (HarperCollins)
The Little One by Lynda La Plante (S&S)
Beyond the Bounty by Tony Parsons (HarperCollins)
Amy’s Diary by Maureen Lee (Orion)
Get the Life You Really Want by James Caan (Penguin)
Doctor Who: Magic of Angels by Jacqueline Rayner (Ebury)
If you agree this is a great initiative, would like to help spread the word about Galaxy Quick Reads and would be interested in receiving some of the 2012 books to review and blog about, then just leave me a comment here and I’ll get in touch to arrange.
In the meantime, as Valentine’s Day approaches and love is in the air, I encourage you all to fall in love with reading… I’m off to lose myself in a good book 🙂