Friday, January 16, 2015

It takes a village to raise literacy

We get approached very often by schools who wish to partner with us in promoting literacy and celebrating books and reading. By far the most popular services are around matching authors visiting our area to go into schools as part of a school author visit.

But demand from schools always outweighs our ability to match an author to a school at an appropriate time. And we only have a limited capacity to go out to schools and keep the shop running as well.

So over the Christmas break we got thinking. After all, the ReadOnGetOn initiative urges everyone to get involved in raising literacy, and we feel very passionately that independent bookshops - with their community connections and route to discovering new authors and ideas - have a small but critical part of the jigsaw to reverse the decline in literacy in the UK.

Can we work together better with schools, teachers, parents, librarians and authors to do our part in fostering a love of reading? And can we do it in a way that allows us stay in business on the High Street?

We're not sure, but we suspect the answer is yes. So we've put up a page on the website with a few ideas, starting with the fabulous WOBOD, the World Book Day Award in which your school could win a library-changing sum of money to spend on books...go take a look.

You see, if old Victor was around today, perhaps the thing that he would find so astounding is the speed at which ideas can propagate around the world: a well-timed blog, a couple of hundred retweets, perhaps the odd pic on Instagram to add a visual stimulus. Remarkable. But the basic mechanism he would recognise: using words to neatly formulate an idea, and have that idea race off into the world and start transforming it.


That's the essence of literacy: the use of words. Reading them, writing them, understanding them. Stringing them together to write a story, or make a speech. Or to ask for a payrise, tell a good joke to your mates down the pub, talk through the loss of a loved on, decide on who to vote for. And whilst a picture might be worth a thousand words, a picture with a few words on it is even more powerful.

And a thousand words is as good as a picture. Which means words trump imagery because they take us to places we can't go, like the past and the future. The pen is mightier than the sword and the camera, neat huh?

But words still need time to percolate in the brain. Time and space need to be created away from the overwhelming buzz and chatter of the modern world to allow those words to soak in, top up the reservoirs and be marshaled in the brain for use in the wider world. That's why we're championing family reading.

It takes a village to raise a child. And we reckon it takes a 'village mentality' to raise literacy. We hope you can take part in this, and the first step might be into your local independent bookshop?

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