Reading’s second nature to me. I don’t even remember learning how to do it. I know I arrived at infants’ school fully equipped so my mum must have taught me although, curiously, I do remember being taught to write there. Both my parents read voraciously and, in my ignorance, I’d assumed that everyone in the book world had a similar background but it seems I’m wrong.
A while back I noticed that Cathy Rentzenbrink had become Project Director for the Reading Agency’s adult literacy arm, Quick Reads, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year. Cathy reviewed for me way back when I was the reviews editor for Waterstone’s Books Quarterly and she was a bookseller at Hatchards. She was an editor’s dream – and still is, I’m sure – happy to read just about anything, turning in beautifully written copy on time, never exceeding the word count. She’s now not only the bestselling author of the much-acclaimed The Last Act of Love but she’s one of the go-to people in the literary world for intelligent recommendations. All this is by way of a lead up to a short BBC piece which I saw tweeted last Thursday in which her father, Kevin, talks about his difficulties with reading. It’s a touching clip, each clearly extremely proud of the other. On the same day, Naomi over at The Writes of Women posted an eloquent and moving piece about her experiences as a Literacy Coordinator and how reading can instil confidence in children, tweeting later about her uncle’s difficulties.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be trying to get to grips with how the world works if you have trouble reading. Life must be spent in an apprehensive fog: the challenge of holding down a half-way decent job – or any job – as Kevin explained, documents to be read and signed, the constant fear of being humiliated. Those who take their courage in their hands and ask for help should be applauded. Initiatives that help them along the way deserve all the support we can give them. So, a few days late but heartfelt, a resounding happy birthday to Quick Reads. There were a bunch of new titles published last Thursday, each tailored for those less confident in their reading skills, one of which is Malala’s book. What could be more appropriate than that!