The woman fronting the National Reading Campaign has her sights trained on fathers and sons in her bid to improve literacy, writes Sarah Cassidy
ONE woman has taken on the task of keeping the nation's nose stuck in a book.
The National Year of Reading's soap-star endorsements and primetime advertising campaigns encouraged the British to turn over a new leaf.
Its successor - the National Reading Campaign - hopes to keep up the good work with a new wave of campaigns but without the benefit of its predecessor's big budget.
The campaign, run by the National Literacy Trust, also has just one full-time member of staff. Genevieve Clarke took over as campaign manager the day after the National Year of Reading ended in September last year.
With funding of only pound;450,000 from the Department for Education and Employment over three years, the campaign will not fund projects of its own but will rely on partnerships and persuasion to drive home its message.
Genevieve, 45, is an energetic champion of the importance of literacy who, fortunately, believes that a big budget is not necessary for the campaign's success.
She has always worked with words, having spent her career in publishing and journalism, and has a passionate interest in adult literacy.
She spent her first six months as campaign manager evaluating the success of the National Year of Reading and consulting on how its work should continue.
The campaign was officially launched last week and will find the National Year of Reading a hard act to follow.
Around pound;4 million was spent on the year, including a pound;1.8m television advertising campaign on encouraging reluctant readers of all ages to pick up a book.
Ms Clarke said: "We do not have that kind of money at all. We don't have any money to fund projects at the moment.
"We are dependent on working with partners. Money is important but it is not the only thing that matters with a project like this. A lot of authorities are doing fantastic work and we need to help spread their ideas. Also the launch of a campaign and its various themes should help motivate people and give new life to on-going projects."
Managing the campaign is a dream job, she said, combining her interests in communication and literacy.
Genevieve started her career in publishing. An English graduate of St Andrew's University, she became an editor at Andre Deutsch Ltd after working her way up from her first job as a secretary.
She was assistant features editor at the Telegraph Magazine, then editor of a specialist broadcasting magazine published by the Independent Television Commission before becoming a freelance editor in 1994.
She became interested in adult literacy in the early Ninetes after getting to know someone with writing problems.
"I had always worked with words and I gradually began to realise how having problems with reading and writing can hold people back.
"As a professional communicator you take literacy for granted in that you are dealing with professional writers and writing for a highly literate audience.
"I came across someone who was extremely confident verbally and extremely intelligent but who had problems with writing. It was shocking to realise how this held this person back."
She became a basic skills tutor and completed a dissertation on the role of literacy for a postgraduate degree in social anthropology.
She still teaches adult literacy classes at an adult education centre in Kingston near her home in south-west London.
"It is of enormous value to me to still be teaching. It keeps me in contact with people who perceive reading as something that has caused them a problem. It keeps my feet on the ground.
"I have always been keener on the idea of teaching adults than children. Adults bring their whole life experience to the class which makes it so much easier and interesting."
She hopes the campaign will reach beyond traditional readers and, by working with health, social services and housing organisations, intends to persuade them that promoting literacy can support their own agendas.
She believes the campaign should encourage everyone to spend more time reading.
"My own reading is intermittent. I was encouraged by some recent research by the Book Marketing Trust that showed that there are many phases to people's reading lives. "I was probably closest to being a bookworm when I was 10 or 11. Now I try to keep up with contemporary fiction and belong to a couple of reading groups.
"People often don't think they have time to read but once they've started a book they enjoy they make the time for it."
Fathers and sons are first targets of Ms Clarke's new campaign. Reading Champions will run through the autumn term and aims to build on the success of the National Year of Reading by using sports organisations to persuade boys to read more. Next year the campaign will focus on young families and adult learners.
The campaign offers information, advice and use of its Read Me logo to anyone promoting reading. It has also launched a set of four Read All About It posters aimed at reluctant readers.
Read All About It posters from
the DFEE on 0845 60 222 60, fax 0845 60 2220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (quote reference number NRC P3).
To get on the NRC mailing list or arrange to use the logo, tel 020 7828 2435, fax 020 7931 9986 or email email@example.com). See also www.literacytrust.org.uk