The Quick Reads initiative, now part of The Reading Agency, is teaming up with the TUC’s learning and skills organisation, Unionlearn, to help adults and children to escape the “reading deficit trap” – by bringing the proven benefits of reading for pleasure to workplaces across the UK.
One in six adults of working age in the UK find reading difficult and may never pick up a book . The projected cost of this deficit to the UK is £81 billion a year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending . It also affects children, who may be less likely to acquire the habit of reading if they do not observe it in adults .
Each year, Quick Reads – which was founded by Baroness Gail Rebuck in 2006 – commissions high-profile authors to write books that are specifically designed to be easy to read, making them more accessible to those who lack the time or the confidence to read for pleasure. This year’s list includes a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast by Amanda Craig, a road trip in search of Poldark by Rowan Coleman, and a ground-breaking self-help text, Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, the first Quick Reads title in this genre (see Notes to editors for the full list).
Unionlearn will run a nationwide literacy week to tie in with the launch of the Quick Reads programme, on 2nd February, and supply copies of this year’s titles alongside The Reading Agency’s author, publisher, bookseller, education, commercial and library partners.
The UK is the global leader in the English language generated creative industries and home to the world’s most loved and recognised literary brands, from Shakespeare and Dickens to JK Rowling. Yet, against expectations, the country frequently appears at the bottom of OECD rankings for literacy.
The 2016 OECD report “Building Skills for All: A Review of England” rates teenagers aged 16 to 19 the worst of 23 developed nations. England has three times more low-skilled people in this age bracket than the best-performing countries, such as Finland or the Netherlands .
There are an estimated 9 million working age adults in England with low basic skills such as literacy, according to the report. These skills are critical to economic success, and are “associated with higher rates of economic activity, higher wages, and a lower risk of unemployment”, the OECD points out.
At a time when the public service is squeezed and work-related stresses of modern life are common, Quick Reads is calling for a wider understanding of the proven holistic benefits of reading for pleasure.
Research from The Reading Agency suggests a wide range of social benefits associated with a positive reading culture, including an increased understanding of self and social identities, empathy, knowledge of other cultures, relatedness and community cohesion . In addition to helping to promote better health and well-being, reading for pleasure can provide the impetus and guidance for people to make significant changes to their lives, such as applying for a new job or taking up routines and hobbies .
Unionlearn has been working with Quick Reads for the last decade to supply books and promote reading through its network of 35,000 trained Union Learning Reps. There are nearly 350 union learning centres in workplaces across the UK, many of which have book swap clubs and links to local libraries. Last year, Unionlearn supported nearly 220,000 learners. This January, the organisation will be launching its Literacy Works campaign.