Adult il­lit­er­acy is ig­nored, says top pub­lisher

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Anita Singh ARTS AND EN­TER­TAIN­MENT ED­I­TOR

MIL­LIONS of Bri­tish adults are func­tion­ally il­lit­er­ate but the is­sue is ig­nored be­cause it is not a fash­ion­able cause, says one of the most pow­er­ful women in pub­lish­ing.

Dame Gail Re­buck founded the Quick Reads scheme, which dis­trib­utes spe­cially writ­ten books de­signed to en­cour­age adults to dis­cover read­ing.

The scheme be­gan in 2005 and at­tracted some of the coun­try’s best­selling au­thors in­clud­ing Joanna Trol­lope, Adele Parks and Andy McNab. But this year it failed to find a cor­po­rate spon­sor and was saved only af­ter Jojo Moyes, the writer, stepped in with £120,000 of her own money.

“It’s a huge sum of money but not to a cor­po­rate spon­sor,” Dame Gail said. “But the point is, it’s not fash­ion­able, is it? You can talk about lit­tle kids read­ing – we can all re­late to that, we all want chil­dren to read books, it’s lovely. But adults not read­ing? Or adults in the work­place not hav­ing enough lit­er­acy to fill in a form, to work on a com­puter, to be pro­moted? That’s not some­thing that peo­ple like to talk about. But it ex­ists.”

The Na­tional Lit­er­acy Trust es­ti­mates 5.1mil­lion adults in Eng­land are func­tion­ally il­lit­er­ate, mean­ing they have a read­ing age of 11 or be­low and can un­der­stand only the most straight­for­ward short texts.

Dame Gail, chair­man of Pen­guin Ran­dom House, de­vised Quick Reads af­ter first found­ing World Book Day for chil­dren in 1997.

She said: “It sud­denly oc­curred to me that if you have a house­hold where there are no books, where the adults are ei­ther il­lit­er­ate or so ner­vous about their lit­er­ary ca­pa­bil­i­ties that they don’t get en­gaged in their kids’ ed­u­ca­tion or their home­work, you have a cy­cle of de­pri­va­tion that goes on through gen­er­a­tions.”

Moyes will fund Quick Reads for the next three years. She said last year: “We live in re­ally dif­fi­cult times and I felt some­times you just have to put your money where your mouth is.”

Jojo Moyes, the nov­el­ist and jour­nal­ist, stepped in to save the Quick Reads scheme

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