National Year of Reading: a primer

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What exactly are we talking about here?

A national, government-sponsored; inclusive, highly participatory, whole community celebration of reading.


Roadshows, television programmes, advertisements, radio shows, newsletters, library projects, story clubs, family literacy schemes, books for babies, author visits, websites, competitions, posters, vouchers, carrier bags, bookmarks...

Organised by?

Local authorities, libraries, booksellers, publishers, colleges, voluntary agencies, schools, business and industry.

Worthy, but dull?

Organisers hope not. Celebs are being dredged up by the bucketful, while new twists on the old story include 1,000 "Brookie Basics" centres (based on television's Brookside) offering literacy advice; a supermarket "read while your parents shop" campaign; poets in parks; rapping, dance, drama and electronic publishing projects.

Who's it for?

Notionally everyone. In practice, the prime targets are boys, adults who need help with their literacy, lower-achieving pupils, and the parents of young children.

Why do it?

Reading is essential for living, learning and working in a modern society. As a nation we're bad at it. The Government's pounds 50m National Lottery Strategy is working to raise standards among under-18s. The National Year of Reading moves this campaign out into the wider community.

When does it happen?

Official launch is Wednesday 16 September, although Tony Blair has already gone on air with his children's book list in the "dads and lads" push to get boys reading more. ("Bit dull, bit old-fashioned" said critiques of his choice of Tolkein, Lewis, Scott and Dickens.)

How will we know if it's worked?

If more children are introduced to more books from an early age, if more children and young people read regularly, if more families read together, if more people read for pleasure and with increased understanding and talk about why they read. But outcomes will depend entirely on inputs.

OK, so how can you do your bit?

Details and local contacts are available from The National Year of Reading Team, The National Literacy Trust, Swire House, 59, Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AJ. Telephone: 0171-828 2435. Fax: 0171-931 9986. e-mail: