My article about World Book Day and how we get to celebrate it twice in Malaysia is in StarMag today. I have to tell you that it was written in record time (for me, anyway! Had to pretend to myself I was writing a blog entry between first and second cups of tea!)
Anyway, the article allowed me to do a little bit of tub-thumping over a couple of issues close to my heart - reading campaigns and books for marginal readers.
The Quick Reads series I mention in the article is I think a very exciting innovation - short, exciting reads by top writers, which are accessible to those who might find a longer book a bit of a struggle. They are not in any sense simplified readers and there is nothing dumbed down about them. This I think is a very important point.
New titles have just been released in conjunction with World Book Day 2007 including Lily by Adele Geras, Twenty Tales from the War Zone by John Simpson, Dr Who: Made of Steel by Terrance Dicks, The Sun Book of Short Stories and the delightfully titled Reading: My Arse! a novel by Ricky Thomlinson. The series is also supported by extensive resource material.
I have seen the books in Times in Bangsar Shopping Complex, but they were just mixed in with everything else. Other bookstores seem to sadly have missed the boat. (I have, though, ordered the whole set for the British Council Library and feel they will be ideal for the language learners who use the resources there.)
I reckon that if Britain has almost a fifth of the population who are sub-literate, Malaysia is likely to have a much higher proportion. You can't simply issue a government directive and tell people that they should read books. Many people can't read books!
But perhaps they can be lead to reading books if the stepping stones are put in place for them.
The simple equation is this: if a marginal reader picks up a little book that they can finish without too much of a struggle, and has a very enjoyable reading experience, they will be looking to repeat the experience.
Anyway, it's World Book Day tomorrow, so why not buy a book for a close friend as a gift and present it with a red rose?