Saturday, March 04, 2006
Literature for the Sub-Literate
It seems that anywhere between 7-12 million readers in the UK struggle with sub-literacy and consequently never pick up a book.
Enter Quick Reads, a new series of books launched in the UK on World Book Day, and aimed at those marginal readers. The price is low at £2.99 (aboutRM20), the print large, the language plain and the covers bright and tempting. And all the books have been specially commissioned from established writers. The first batch includes works by Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters, Richard Branson. More titles will be added in May. Boyd Tonkin in the Independent welcomes the intiative, but likes some ot the titles much better than others.
Quick Reads are not only good for emergent readers, they're good for the book trade, tapping into a market thus far completely untapped. If there's a low profit margin on Quick Reads, booksellers will be more than compensated by return customers who've suddenly discovered the power of the book.
And of course, there should be a lesson in here for booksellers and all those with a stake in adult literacy here in Malaysia where the greatest need is to grow a readership is given much lip service to, but no-one seems quite sure what to do about it in practical terms. If such a high proportion of native speakers struggle to read in their first language, what more of many Malaysians for whom English is a second?