WE hear a lot these days about the proportion of people that have never read a book for pleasure, or the number of children who haven’t been read a bedtime story.
With the internet and digital technology increasingly shaping our lives, at times it can seem as though reading books is going out of fashion faster than children’s loom bands.
But while many people fear that reading is fast becoming a minority interest, this is just one part of the story.
Book groups, for instance, have never been more popular with an estimated 50,000 people regularly meeting across the UK. The number of literary festivals has also ballooned, while book signings have become hugely popular events.
The North of England has played no small part in all this and next month sees the return of the Read Regional campaign. Now in its seventh year this annual campaign– run by New Writing North and supported by Arts Council England – is promoting 10 new books from northern writers.
Between March and June the authors, including three from Yorkshire, will be appearing at libraries and literary festivals across the North East and Yorkshire to talk to audiences about their books and the ups and downs of being a writer.
As well as giving readers the chance to meet authors, all the Read Regional books featured – which range from graphic novels to contemporary poetry – are being stocked in 19 library authorities across the region.
Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, says it’s a way of promoting writers as well as the libraries we have on our doorstep. “The Read Regional project grew out of our desire to offer more to both libraries and authors and to connect communities of readers across the North in an enjoyable way.
“We know that being selected for the campaign can make a real difference to authors and to their publishers and that libraries value the introduction to interesting authors and the support that we give them to engage readers. The project seems to me to be the perfect partnership of readers and writers.”
Lauren Owen, whose debut novel The Quick is among those on the list, says libraries were part and parcel of her childhood.
“I owe a great deal to the libraries I’ve belonged to over the years. Being able to visit my local library when I was growing up was absolutely invaluable to my development as a reader and a writer.”
Lauren, who divides her time between York and Durham, says holding events in libraries is also a great way of meeting readers. “I love hearing people’s reactions – after working in solitude for so long, it’s lovely to be able to talk about my fictional characters with others.
“It’s also wonderful to be able to share my love of the Gothic and the nineteenth century, and to discuss creepy classics like Dracula, which was one of the inspirations for my novel.”
Tim Leach, from Sheffield, is also among those featured along with his book, The Last King of Lydia.
“Ultimately, the main reason I write is to share a story, and I like to know what other people have made of that story,” he says. “Reviews are nice enough, but there’s nothing quite like meeting readers face to face and having the chance to talk with them about the book.
“I try to keep my readings short and sweet – there are some exciting passages that I’ve picked out to read, but I’m most looking forward to the discussions after I’ve finished reading. Talking with people is much more interesting than talking at them.”
• For a list of events taking place and to find out more about the books and authors involved log on to www.readregional.com.