Adult illiteracy is ignored, says top publisher
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