Rendell mystery works its magic

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
Gill Moore says the new Quick Read tales by well-known authors have had a remarkable effect on her basic skills class

Peter supports a premiership football club. He has great interpersonal skills and the club has found him work directing supporters around the grounds and helping in the club shop, even though he has difficulty with reading and writing.

Peter attends a basic skills class, and although the new Quick Reads series is rather challenging for him, the subject matter of Mick Dennis's The Team was so appropriate that I gave him a copy. I suggested he kept it, and now it's quite dog-eared. He takes it with him on train journeys and down to the pub. He engages acquaintances and even complete strangers in conversation about the book and some offer to help him with it.

Anyone who has ever tried to find motivating but simple reading resources for adults will know how scarce they are. The problem until recently has been that if students could read the books, they might not find them worth the effort, or suitable for their age.

So I was really keen to see if the new Quick Read series would at last provide what I was looking for.

This set of short, well-paced books is written to encourage adults who can read at a basic level but may not have the confidence or incentive to read novels. They cover a good range of genres and are written by popular authors.

I decided that if I was going to promote the books, I had better read them.

I rarely manage to read a novel during term time, so the idea of a story I could consume in a couple of hours was appealing. The first Quick Read I picked up was Ruth Rendell's The Thief about a girl who has some unpleasant habits, that eventually catch up with her. I read the book on a plane journey and by coincidence some of the action takes place on a plane, where she has trouble with a fellow traveller.

Rendell knows how to build tension, so it was fortunate that the man sitting next to me was a tall, handsome Spaniard on his way to a medical conference, and not scary at all.

I used the Quick Reads promotional material to launch a topic of 'reading for pleasure' with another basic English class. I took along all the freebies and the first titles and we looked at and discussed them.

It is a measure of how good they are that I now take them along every week, and the students borrow them to take home.

Mary has found literacy difficult all her life, and her home circumstances have done nothing to help her self-esteem. She decided to tackle Joanna Trollope's The Book Boy, which she enjoyed because she could identify with the main character, a woman who is illiterate and bullied by her family, but who eventually decides to assert herself.

There are several volunteers who help with this class, and they too borrow the books. This creates reading role models who can discuss the titles with students. One of the helpers and I had a little public chat about whether the farmer in Chicken Feed was guilty or not. I thought he was, but she thought he was innocent. Now one of the students has taken it home and the debate will no doubt continue.

All this is making the group much more sociable and gives us all equal status as readers.

After they have finished a book, the students write a brief review on a simple pro-forma, so other students can see what their peer-group thinks of each title.

The local library is promoting the Quick Reads and we are arranging a visit there, and starting to think whether we could get a book club going, especially now a further set of titles has been published.

As the publishing costs have been offset by sponsorship, the books sell for a mere pound;2.99, but vouchers which give pound;1 off any titles are readily available. At the time of writing, Asda has discounted the books to pound;1.99 (but is not accepting the vouchers). The titles are part of the RaW (Read and Write) campaign.

There are interactive resources on the BBC's RaW site and these are entertaining - but I'm wary of providing "work" linked to the titles because I remember how doing set books put me off some good authors for decades. I want students to read for the pleasure of it, but I'll be keeping an eye on the site, which includes celebrity reviews and competitions.

If you want to find out more, or download vouchers, visit or check out your library.

And if you've ever wondered what it feels like to go out on the Chelsea pitch dressed up as a blue lion, read chapter five of The Team.

Gill Moore is a basic skills lecturer.


The Quick Read series is a good example of a resource that inspires students and makes teaching a pleasure. FE Focus would like to hear about any other inspiring resources, email

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