If you have never heard of Quick Reads, pull up a chair, make yourself a cuppa and let me tell you a little bit more.
Quick Reads is a wonderful initiative that came into being 10 years ago as a response to the fact that one in six adults of working age in the UK find reading difficult and may never pick up a book. Many people are intimidated by books, others don’t have time to read or simply think reading is boring. Quick Reads response to this was to commission well known authors to write ‘shorter’ more accessible books that could appeal to adults who normally would not pick up a book for the reasons listed above.
It has been a roaring success and since it began Quick Reads has now published 60 different titles from a range of diverse authors including Jo Jo Moyes, Alexander McCall Smith and Andy McNab.
Last week I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Quick Reads 10 year anniversary event at Foyles book shop on Charing Cross road in London. It was a joy to be part of. A room full of book lovers, authors, book chat, chocolate (courtesy of the sponsors Galaxy) and a glass of wine is a pretty good way to spend a Wednesday evening.
The event was chaired by Cathy Rentzenbrink the director of Quick Reads. Cathy’s Dad did not learn to read fully until he was an adult and Cathys passion for reading and the joy to be found in helping someone else become a book lover is infectious. Cathy interviewed Veronica Henry, Fanny Blake, Elizabeth Buchan, Rowan Coleman and Matt Haig; all authors who have written stories for this anniversary collection of short stories. The authors then read from the short they had written. It was great to hear them read but it was fascinating to hear them talk about what books mean to them and in some cases how books have literally saved them.
Veronica Henry is the editor of this collection stories. She described reading like eating, ‘it would be terrible to not be able to do it’ and she likened this collection of short stories to a tasting menu. This is the first thing Elizabeth Buchan has written for Quick Reads and she was thrilled to be involved. She talked about how she had discovered Quick Reads her self after undergoing surgery which left her feeling distracted and less able to concentrate then normal. The size and format of the books was perfect for her. This has been the case for the many people who have written to Cathy over the years telling her how they have been able to read these books when unwell or going through serious treatment such as chemotherapy, which often makes it temporarily harder to concentrate and clouds the brain.
In a similar vein Matt Haig talked about a time when he was very ill with depression. Prior to his illness he had been a masters student reading the romantics such as Byron and Keates. When he became unwell and was trying to escape his own mind he read children’s books such as Winnie the Pooh. He could read these books in a way that he could;t have managed a more difficult novel. Matt said during that time and since he saw the therapeutic value of books in a way he hadn’t before
Rowan Colman has now published over 12 novels but due to her dyslexia she grew up feeling marginalised and stupid. For her reading as a child was difficult and she read books in a different way to other children, usually much more slowly and by missing out large chunks! The concept of Quick Reads is perfect for people who for whatever reason can only manage or only want to manage bite size chunks. Fortunatly Rowan had a teacher that did see something in her and she has since learnt to embrace her dyslexia and the way it enables her to see the world. Similarly Fanny Blake talked of the particular needs of someone with dyslexia. One of her sons is mildly dyslexic and reading was much harder of him than for her other son.
I am so fortunate that I was brought up with books all around me and have always found reading an easy and enjoyable thing to do, but for an alarming number of people this isn’t the case. I came away from this event enthused and excited all over again about the immense pleasure reading can give and with a deeper understanding of how important it is that everyone has the opportunity to read.
For a list of this years Quick Reads go to the Quick Reads website which you can find here. All the books are available to buy for just £1 each or you can get them from your local library.