Reading and Reader Development: The Pleasure of Reading

Stuart James (University Librarian, University of Paisley)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 September 2004




James, S. (2004), "Reading and Reader Development: The Pleasure of Reading", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 7, pp. 379-380.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Reports of our death remain premature; indeed, some recent reports on public library services and buildings, as well as the much vaunted People's Network, indicate that we remain alive, well and kicking. Still, if reading itself dies out, what future for libraries? We have an obvious role far beyond the collection and circulation of books and information, a role that libraries have fulfilled with often great success over the many years of my career, and which they continue to fulfill. Doing is the most important part of the process, but it does not go amiss to remind the world of how great our successes have been, and remain. One of the many virtues of this book is that it refers to or treats as case studies wide ranges (both thematic and geographic) of library‐based initiatives alongside initiatives of other agencies; and there are plenty more library examples beyond those identified here.

Given the nature and fundamental importance of the subject, this is just the kind of book a professional body like CILIP should be publishing, and its members, and others, reading. It is academic‐based research of an ideal kind, giving a theoretical underpinning to practice within working libraries. The first chapter, by Judith Elkin, sets this theoretical framework with an analysis of what is reading, why do people read, what benefits do they derive consciously or sub‐consciously from reading, and how do they go about reading and we go about encouraging or supporting them. Briony Train gives a similarly thorough and systematic account of reader development while the next five chapters deal with specific foci:

  • reading and agencies in the UK;

  • the international focus (the IFLA reading survey);

  • cultural and multicultural perspectives;

  • special needs/special places (including such as reading in hospitals, prisons or prisoner of war camps, as well as bibliotherapy more generally); and

  • ICT and reader development.

One of the more exciting and stimulating developments recently, and still developing fast, is the use of ICT to support reading activities with a range of readers, actual or potential, including teenagers and young people. The role of and need for research in reading and reader development is the subject of the penultimate chapter, while the book concludes with an overview and summary of reading and reader development.

This book works on at least three levels:

  1. 1.

    It is a systematic manual with plenty of sound practical advice.

  2. 2.

    It bases that advice on its own research and a consistent theoretical basis derived from it.

  3. 3.

    It is itself a good read.

There are a lot of committed librarians out there doing a lot of imaginative, innovative and effective work with reader groups and the whole range of communities, both readers and non‐readers. They will benefit from reading this and putting themselves in a wider picture, as well as perhaps picking up some new ideas. Given the range of agencies identified here in the reading development and promotion field, the audience will be wider than just librarians as well, but it is good to see such a sound piece of work from our own domain. The future of reading remains uncertain: there are so many competing influences and attitudes. But what a world would be lost, and what power to the individual with it, were reading to wither away. We must continue our many and varied efforts, and this book will play a useful role in guiding and reinforcing us.

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