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Do reading promotions work?

10 March 2008

World Book Day

Last Thursday, March 6th, was World Book Day in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. 23 April has been designated as UNESCO's World Book Day for the rest of the world.

In the UK the 2008 promotion included a competition for Great Books to Talk About (won by Boy A by Jonathan Trigell), a Schools Short Story Competition and a Schools Pack which is mailed to schools with free £1 book tokens for the children. There's also the money raised for the book charity Book Aid InternationalSupplies much-needed books to developing countries, raising funds from publishers and general public; 'Reverse Book Club' is masterly idea-for just £5 ($10) month you can provide 48 books to go to where they're most needed and 10 new Quick Reads, designed to provide short, exciting books specifically for adults who struggle with reading.

National Year of Reading

In the UK 2008 has been declared National Year of Reading and there are ambitious plans to spread the message across the country. Bedtime reading campaigns, campaigns for teenagers, reading places and much more kick off in April with the first monthly theme: 'Reading is everywhere and it's not just about books: you can read anything, anywhere and anytime.'

The campaign will use co-ordinators working for each local authority and bring in ideas and contributions from organisations across the country to create a critical mass of reading initiatives. After all, as Dr Seuss said: 'The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go.'

So, do these big generic campaigns work and can these ideas be picked up for use in other countries? The answer seems to be yes. Although it's too soon to measure the effect of the UK's National Year of Reading, there's a lot of energy and some great ideas going into the campaign, which should make a real impact.

As for World Book Day, it does make a real difference in the schools, many of which have supported it for several years.

Quick Reads have some solid evidence of the improvement in adult literacy the programme has brought. In a survey they conducted, 90% of adults using Quick Reads said that improving their reading has made them feel better about themselves, 57% of these learners had never read a book since school and 90% of them said that, following Quick Reads, they now enjoyed reading. What's more, a remarkable 57% said they felt their job prospects had improved and 39% said they felt more confident at work.

Reading is a fundamental and essential skill in contemporary society. These initiatives to encourage children to read and to help adults find their way into books deserve everyone's support.

World Book Day

UNESCO World Book Day 23 April

Quick Reads

Book Aid International

National Year of Reading