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Government Gets Adults Hooked On Books For World Book Day


02 March 2006, The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has teamed up with World Book Day on 2nd March to encourage more adults to start reading books for enjoyment and to improve their skills by enrolling on free reading and writing courses across the country.

World Book Day has already been a huge success at engaging children in reading across the country. A charity set up by the publishing industry in 1998 and launched by the Prime Minister, World Book Day has become an annual event to celebrate books and reading. Since 1998, around 117 million book tokens have been distributed to schools to promote reading as a basis of a good education.

This year, for the first time, World Book Day is targeting new adult readers. Top authors, (including Ruth Rendell, Joanna Trollope, Richard Branson, and Minnette Walters) have been commissioned to write short novels called Quick Reads targeted at emergent readers. These short books retailing at £2.99 are designed to be best sellers and to appeal to a wide audience. The first 12 books will be published on World Book Day on 2nd March, and a further 10 will be published in May just before Adult Learners Week.

The DfES Skills for Life Strategy which aims to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of two and a quarter million adults by 2010, has backed the initiative.

Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: “The launch of Quick Reads coincides with the 5 year anniversary of the launch of the Skills for Life Strategy. New figures released today show that since 1st March 2001 we have helped over 3.7 million adults take up 7.9 million literacy, language and numeracy courses, and over a million and a quarter of these adults went on to achieve a qualification. This is a significant achievement, but we still have a long way to go. The Quick Reads initiative provides a great opportunity to get people across the country excited about reading and the benefits that it can bring. It is also a good time to remind people about the many free courses available to help them improve their reading and writing skills.”

Adult learner Heather Hegarty was often in hospital as a child and therefore missed out on much of her education. In 2003 Heather decided to change her life for the better and return to education. She has since passed her Level 1 and Level 2 in Literacy and has gone from reading the odd Mills and Boon novel to being passionate about all books, ranging from the ’Harry Potter’ books to Maeve Binchy, who is one of the ’Quick Reads’ authors.

Heather said “Learning to read and write has opened up a whole new world for me – I’m so much more confident now than I was before. The whole experience of going back into learning has been brilliant – I’ve been able to work at my own pace, choose what I want to do and have had so much care and support. I sometimes think back to the day that I made the decision to come and enrol on a course – and if I had the chance to make that decision again, I wouldn’t change it at all!”

The Government is working with NIACE (The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) to distribute at least 5 million £1 book tokens, (making the books only £1.99), to adult emergent readers to encourage them to buy the books, start reading and become interested in improving their literacy skills, through the many free courses across the country. The DfES has also been working with The Vital Link to produce and disseminate free teaching and learning materials for Skills for Life practitioners. The materials are based on the new Quick Reads books and aim to support tutors to use these resources within their teaching.

Phil Hope, Minister for skills commented: “5.2 million adults across the country lack the literacy skills at Level 1 (the skills needed to pass a GCSE at any grade) and as many as 12 million people who are in employment could benefit by improving their skills. Adults can find out more about free courses near them by calling 0800 100 900. I hope that adults across the country will take advantage of the fantastic new Quick Reads books which are interesting, entertaining and a great way to get into reading for fun and improving personal skills.”

Alan Tuckett, Director of NIACE, said, “We have been delighted to support Quick Reads. We are ensuring that the five million £1 book tokens reach an enormous range of potential adult readers and learners through diverse routes such as family learning centres, citizens advice bureaux, GP surgeries, the Probation Service, colleges, Libraries and the TUC. This is a unique and innovative programme and we look forward to giving fresh impetus to Quick Reads when further books are released just before Adult Learners’ Week in May this year.”

The new focus on adults by World Book Day has come at an exciting time for engaging adult learners. The BBC is in the midst of a 3 year campaign called RAW (Reading and Writing campaign) and is working in partnership with World Book Day and Quick Reads to promote the initiative, as well as with the Government’s Get On Campaign to engage adults in Skills for Life learning.

Editor’s Notes
This press notice relates to ’England’
The Skills for Life Strategy was launched on 1st March 2001 by the Prime Minister. The Strategy, driven by the Department for Education and Skills, aims to help 2.25 million learners gain a literacy, language or numeracy qualification by 2010, with an interim target of 1.5 million by 2007. The Get On campaign, featuring the now-famous gremlin character, forms part of the Skills for Life Strategy and seeks to engage adults with literacy, numeracy and language skills needs.

For further information or gremlin imagery please call the Get On campaign office on 020 7544 3130. Or you can email Sarah Schofield, Vanessa Montero or Jenna Frost at

1. Information about Quick Reads is available by visiting
2. To support the initiative and obtain free Quick Reads £1-off vouchers please visit or email or call 0116 2047072
3. Information about World Book Day is available by visiting The publishing industry have lent incredible support, and authors have donated support. [DN - WBD to add/amend]
4. The Prime Minister launched the Skills for Life Strategy in 2001 to tackle the legacy of adults with poor literacy, language and numeracy skills within England. The Strategy aims to help create a society where adults have the basic skills they need to find and keep work and participate fully in society, through:
• Boosting demand for learning
• Ensuring capacity of the learning provider delivery system
• Improving standards of teaching and learning
• Increasing learner achievement
5. The Get On Campaign is part of the Skills for Life Strategy for improving adult literacy, language (ESOL - English for Speakers of Other Languages) and numeracy skills, in order to boost the demand for literacy, language and numeracy learning.
6. The Skills for Life National Needs and Impact Survey of Literacy, Numeracy and IT skills, published in October 2003, estimated that in England, 5.2 million adults aged 16-55 have literacy levels below Level 1 (the level of skills required to achieve a GCSE at grades D – E), and 14.9 million have numeracy skills below this level.
7. Government has committed to improving the literacy and numeracy skills of 2.25 million adults by 2010, with an interim target of 1.5 million by 2007. The government is on track to meet the target, having achieved the milestone to help 750,000 adults to achieve their first literacy, language or numeracy qualification by 2004.
8. The Vital Link is run by The Reading Agency and have been working in partnership with the National Literacy Trust and the National Reading Campaign to produce and disseminate teaching and learning resources based on the Quick Reads books for World Book Day.
9. The DfES’ National Reading Campaign ( is working with Quick Reads and World Book Day to ensure that as many people as possible enjoy the pleasures and benefits that reading can bring.


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