Those who signed up to be a World Book Night giver this year were asked how they intended to share their books with those who don't normally read. This is something that, at first, can seem easy but, with more thought, becomes harder and harder.
I dropped my books off around my local town for others to randomly find. Others gave books to strangers outside fish and chip shops, donated them to local libraries or schools, or shared them with people on local transport. Great ways of getting them into the hands of those who don't usually read, but will it really help them to enjoy the pleasures of reading?
This certainly seemed to be the idea behind World Book Night's vision. And for some it seems to have worked. On the lead-up to the event World Book Night gave out some examples on twitter. The one that sticks in my mind most was a prisoner who received a book as part of their reading group programme. It helped him to remember that he'd loved reading as a kid, and that there was some pleasure in life besides drugs or a life of crime.
However, I've heard many more stories of books sat on shelves whilst their recipients decide whether to read them or not, or just forget about them all-together. And so, my question is how can we encourage these reluctant readers to read their books?
I guess the first question is: what scares them about reading in the first place?
I suspect that, for many, its some bad experience whilst they were at school. It might be that they were dyslexic and it wasn't picked up / dealt with properly. It could be that they were bullied because they liked reading. Or maybe they just got so fed up with analysing texts and reading what they weren't interested in for studies that reading now feels like a chore.
For many of these people the key is to find a book they love. Maybe a reader friend telling nagging them enough would do it. Or seeing a movie they loved and then being given a copy of the book. Its important, of course, that the book is at their own level. Engaging, yet not overwhelming. A 'quick read' from the library could do the trick for some. And being part of a group that accepts its OK to read will help as well.
Others know that they love reading but just don't feel that they have the time any more. These aren't so much reluctant readers, as hidden readers. If there's someone in your household like this then my top tip is to leave books you think they might like it the places where it could be possible to have a moment to read: ontop of the TV, by their bed, in the bathroom. Make them light reads, relaxing reads, funny reads. Maybe even some books from their childhood to remind them of what they're missing. And make sure they can be read in short sections for easy digestability. If its possible take them on holiday once in a while to somewhere quiet away from the kids and/or work. And then pack them plenty of engaging, you don't want to put down books that they'll enjoy. And then, if kids are the problem, then help them be the solution. Lend (or give) them books that they'll love bit can be shared with the kids as well.
The finally category I'm going to write about are the distracted readers. These are the people that have never tried reading because they're too busy watching movies or playing computer games. They're mostly younger people, although there are always some of the older variety lurking out there as well.
The key with this sort, I think, is to latch onto their interest. If they like video games, start with comics about their favourite characters. If its movies they love, then try 'quick reads' or children's books about their favourite films. Don't force children to read them, but make them clearly available (you might even want to put them somewhere they can read them secretly if they generally consider what you suggest uncool). And, if they might do what you do, then don't forget to read your own books infront of them- if they always see you infront of the TV but never with a story then what example are you giving them?
This isn't an exhaustive list of why people might be reluctant readers (and I don't think it ever could be). It's just my observations from my everyday life.
Now, why not tell me about yours?!