Quick Reads is part of The Reading Agency, which aims to bring the love of books to everyone — including the one in three adults in the UK who don’t read for pleasure and the one in six who find reading difficult.
The illiteracy in the UK costs the government an estimated £37 billion a year and, by design, affects the most vulnerable. Parents with low literacy levels will often fill low-paid jobs and are not equipped to help their children with reading.
Each year, Quick Reads invites top authors to write bitesize books that are easy to read. The six titles per year, covering romance, comedy, and crime, each cost only £1, are around 100 pages long and can be read in one sitting or over a couple of nights.
“If you don’t have reading [skills], you don’t have the most important building blocks to build success, pleasure, enjoyment”
Despite being a brilliant idea that is set to tackle the £37 billion a year problem, the project is not supported by the government. It’s hard to believe that the project was actually shelved as a result of a lack of funds.
But thanks to the extraordinary generosity of one ordinary person – namely, author Jojo Moyes – the project was re-launched this year. The Me Before You author has stumped up £120,000 to ensure the initiative can run for an additional three years, starting this year.
Quick Reads 2020
Interviewing Jojo Moyes at the Quick Reads 2020
Ikon team caught up with Jojo Moyes (50) – the de facto patron of the project – at the Quick Reads 2020 launch in Waterstones, Piccadilly. Dressed in a pink flowery blouse, Jojo looked radiant as she spoke about the cause she is so passionate about.
Jojo Moyes. Photo courtesy of Jojo Moyes
“Anybody who has reasonable levels of success has the responsibility to give back. I’ve already written one of those books a few years ago (Paris For One, 2015) and the feedback I got from the people who wouldn’t normally read books showed me how important they are.”
So, it wasn’t a matter of choice for Jojo when she read the press release confirming that Quick Reads got shelved. She explains her decision further: “For a relatively small investment, it’s a really good way to get people on board who wouldn’t otherwise read, to get them more comfortable and get them to enjoy reading too. So, it was a significant investment and I haven’t regretted it for a day.”
“Anybody who has reasonable levels of success has the responsibility to give back.”
Jojo’s investment will support the project for 3 years – up until 2021. But going forward, the author admits, she hopes for the support from publishers and the government. “I hope that someone in the publishing or the government will take over because I don’t believe it should be up to an individual to fund something that is so clearly for the public good.”
Being a wordsmith herself, Jojo Moyes knows the value of reading first hand: “If you don’t have reading [skill], you don’t have the most important building blocks to build success, pleasure, enjoyment and so these books are a very small investment – just one pound. And people find them easy to buy and easy to read.”
“What these books are not is patronising”
These £1 books are perfectly suitable for reading on commute: “I like reading them on a tube instead of looking through my phone. And I would really encourage people to try them out because there is something for everybody.”
The books are not just shorter though. Moyes explains: “The stories don’t have any really long words; we try to keep the plot very easy to follow. What these books are not is patronising or meant for infant readers. They are really good books just with a shorter and speedier pace.”
Available in prisons, libraries and in stores, both online and brick and mortar, the books are destined to reach a lot of readers. Assuming a lot of publishers might want to be part of it, we asked about the commissioning process: “Some authors are very keen and literally banging on our doors. Others, we have to work harder to persuade. But everybody who’s been involved in the scheme is a convert.
“I understand we’ve got next year’s list already commissioned but we are still searching for authors for our year three.” So, authors interested to take part should get in touch with the https://readingagency.org.uk/
Quick Reads 2020 list
Highlights this year include Clare Mackintosh’s chilling psycho-thriller The Donor, in which a teenage girl meets the mother of a young man whose heart she was given in a transplant — with catastrophic consequences, and Candice Carty-Williams’ vibrant contemporary re-telling of West Side Story, Notting Hill Carnival, set in the rival ganglands of London’s bustling Notting Hill.
Milly Johnson’s life-affirming heroine, Lara, confronts the heartache of her past to discover what she really wants in life in The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe, while A. A. Dhand’s charismatic Detective Inspector Harry Virdee tackles drug gangs on the streets of Bradford in A Darkness Rising.
Adam Kay’s bestselling memoir of life as a doctor, This Is Going to Hurt, appears in a shortened version, and finally, a wonderful pick-and-mix collection of ten stories by leading writers, A Fresh Start, is the ultimate choice for the time-pressed.
Here, Louise Candlish’s sharp revenge drama unfolds with controlled tension, while Keith Stuart’s moving and funny account of anxious parents following their autistic son on his first date is based on personal experience.
Jojo Moyes’s portrayal of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with her husband’s infidelity is witty and uplifting, and Ian Rankin’s domestic drama is a gem of concise, suspenseful crime writing.
Fanny Blake reveals the pain of sibling rivalry and the power of family secrets, while Sophie Kinsella has fun with the modern obsession with de-cluttering.