The last person to raise a hand when the English teacher asks for a volunteer to read aloud is always the budding writer. It’s often left to their classmates, the ones who dream of being singers, dancers and actors. Appearing on Desert Island Discs the award-winning author and Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman talked about her reluctance to read out her own work at a writing group. Eventually after many weeks, she was told to ‘either poo or get off the pot’, in other words, to share her work and get feedback. These days writers need to be as comfortable making festival appearances as creating content. Pity the poor novelist who can’t perform.

X Factor for writers

And it was only a matter of time before we got an X Factor show for aspiring novelists. The Sunday Times reported on Masterpiece, co-produced by the makers of the X Factor, where contestants are ‘expected to write perfect prose in a timed ordeal, with every word flashing up on a giant screen behind them’. Apparently the show focuses on the lives and emotions of the would-be novelists. Great. Fortunately it’s only aired in Italy, so far…

Less than half read for pleasure

But what really pulled me up short was almost an aside, that Italy is ‘a country where 46% of adults read a book last year’. Really? Could it be so low? I mean, we have bad weather here in Scotland perhaps that’s why we read more. Going to the beach or sipping espresso at a street cafe is not up there competing for our leisure time.  However, my assumptions were swept away when I went to check this fact and got sidetracked by a bundle of stats about UK reading habits. I have the Reading Agency, a charity committed  to promoting reading to thank for such nuggets as ‘46% of 16-to-24 year olds don’t read for pleasure’. We’re no more amore with reading than the Italians, but we might be by the end of Book Week Scotland (25 Nov to 1 Dec). It’s a week-long celebration of books and reading, organised by the Scottish Book Trust. Free books are being given out, there’s a calendar of 400 activities for readers of all ages and resources to help schools get pupils involved – to get the whole school sharing their reading. Just don’t ask the quiet one at the back, they may be too busy writing their own book.