Friday, August 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Mr Daunt

Dear Mr Daunt
For a while now I have been musing on what it is that makes a person a 'reader'. I have watched as government schemes to encourage reading have come and gone, even been a small part of some of their campaigns, but always somewhat discouraged by their thinking.
The only conclusion that I can come to is that what makes readers out of people is good stories. Yes, you have to learn to uncrack the code of the alphabet, but once you have that trick what you need is stories. Stories that have the power to transport across time, to different lands. Stories that catch you up tight in their alphabet nets and hold you until the world around you falls away and you become a part of the pages.
These come from writers, and from painters, through pictures books that catch at the hearts of children to novels that dash and rage at the souls of adults.
Like you I believe in the power of the book to continue through these changing times. But I would ask you this. Please will you support us authors in what we do by paying a fair price for our work. Do not demand the 50 and 60% discounts from our publishers that push down our royalties so far that we cannot make a living from our drawing and dreaming. Help us to inspire new generations into the love of books.
So very many writers find that they have to work at other jobs in order to make a living. This is not wrong, for if we lock ourselves away in our towers made only of words then where will we find the inspiration and the empathy that we require to feed our souls. But I ask only this, a fair wage.
Thank you.

Other thoughts on what makes our children into readers:
1. Example. If your children see you reading then they will see this as a worthwhile activity and become curious to discover what the pleasure is that you find between the pages of a book.
2. Sharing. So many people will sit and watch a film together but few these days will sit together and share the pages from a book. As our children grow older we forget that we can still read books together.

More thoughts on how to make readers out of our children are welcome through comments.


  1. Absolutely, a fair wage is the least you should have in payment for weaving stories and painting dreams.

    I think my mother reading to my sister and me when we were tiny definitely made readers of both of us.

    I do wish that my husband enjoyed reading...I would love for us both to sit together reading our books, or reading aloud and discussing. His mother is not a reader in any regard, which leads me right back to the belief that mother's interest in books is a gift to the child.

  2. A very good and thought-provoking post, Jackie.Thankyou.
    I think you know that I picked up the reading trick when I was 4 and spent the next 60 years passing on that love. (Well, I hope so!)
    Far too many many people with political clout see writers/illustrators as rich party-goers. It is not always the case!

  3. I could not agree with you more Jackie.

    Bring back the Net Book Agreement! Before it's demise we had small, independent bookshops who could compete with the bulk buyers. Small publishers could make a living and so could writers and illustrators, advances were modest but workable, consumers got more choice.

  4. Oh Jackie, a post after my own heart. The demise of the net book agreement went down the wrong route. The book trade is one of the few places where they discount on cover price, rather than pricing at Publisher and then the mark up is up to the bookseller.
    As a teacher I know how valuable stories are. In my classroom I turn out the lights, shut the blinds and ask them to put their heads on the desks. Story time is then read with me walking the room, using sound effects and badly accented voices (not a good actor, me). If I get it right they are spellbound. Christmas Carol was a favourite last year.
    As for home, bedtime is mandatory stories. We have daddy books and mum books (dad does better voices).

  5. I often think that the most important jobs in the world, the ones that help turn children into happy, responsible, loving people, are the most undervalued (like teachers and writers, and ,dare I say it, Mothers!) The greatest joy I had a as a mother of young children was to share books. To share GOOD QUALITY books- books with lovely illustrations and inspiring words- honest stories that added something to my children's lives and memories (don't get me started on some on the pulp that is made into children's books!) We would read until they knew all the words and then they would take piles of books to bed to "read" to themselves. My husband and I read all the time- he jokes that he knows when I have a good book because the house starts falling apart around me. Even still I had a few reluctant readers once they got to school age. I do think that sometimes school manages to take the magic out of a good story. What saved me (as a mother of 4 children with less and less time to spend reading to each of them) was audiobooks. Highly underrated for kids. Even now, my 17 year old loves to listen to a story. For long car trips, we all do. I am so glad my children are all readers; that they can share books and discuss them. Their world is so much richer for this gift. Me, I'm looking forward to grandkids one day to be able to have children piled up around me with their chubby little hands and to be able to dive into the world of a beautiful well written book.

  6. What you said! A tale that holds you is utterly important and authors can't focus on their work if they are beset with money worries.

    I got into books from my mother reading them to me as a child... now I am a book addict!

  7. Yes, absolutely. You have summed it up perfectly and only a person who doesn't read wouldn't relate to your answer.


  9. I once begged my publishers not to put my books forward for the three for two deals in Waterstones as they had to pay to be in the scheme and discount at 60%. I would ather give books away than get tangled in those kinds of rediculous selling schemes.