[Editor's note: This guest post was written by Stephen James-Yeoman, the Editor of Digital Projects for BBC Arts]
I have a clear memory of the first book that I picked to read as a teenager. I had helped my Mum with the weekly food shop and, as we headed towards the supermarket door, we came across one of those revolving carousels with the shop’s offering of paperbacks. Now, we weren’t really a family of book readers. My parents ran their own business and all our efforts went into making that a success, so leisure time for me was babysitting my (much) younger brother while my parents were hard at work. But I was drawn to this spinning treasure trove of delights. It may have been the rebellious teenager in me but my choice was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, the writer’s 1975 bestseller about a town being threatened by vampires. It was possibly an inappropriate selection for a 14-year-old but, to her credit, one which my Mum allowed.
This was the spark that ignited my love of reading. For some those flames are fanned by an inspirational English teacher; or memories of bedtime storytelling with Mum and Dad. But there are others who have still not discovered the joy of reading: the pleasure of immersing oneself in a helter-skelter plot stuffed with chewy characters and a rewarding denouement or are yet to discover how a book, whether physical paper pages or digitally crammed onto a hand-held device, can be a gateway for knowledge, understanding and curiosity.
And that’s the idea behind #LovetoRead, the BBC’s 2016 campaign to celebrate the pleasure of reading – or as I’m calling it, the joy of text! Authors and books, and indeed good stories, have always been at the heart of what the BBC does but by partnering and working with the UK’s leading literacy and literary organisations and publishers – including amongst others the Society of Chief Librarians and the Scottish Library and Information Council - it’s hoped that #LovetoRead will start a national conversation about books like never before.
#LovetoRead is split into two distinct parts: this summer we’ll concentrate on Awesome Authors with the aim to get children excited about reading, creative writing and storytelling. On television and radio there will be a gloriumptious celebration of Roald Dahl to coincide with his centenary year while some of the UK’s best-loved CBBC stars and authors including, among others, Jacqueline Wilson, David Baddiel, Liz Pichon and Frank Cottrell-Boyce have already attracted thousands of young readers to Birmingham Library for two action-packed days of events and live broadcasts. Similar events were held at libraries in Belfast, Poole, Edinburgh and Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan.
CBeebies will offer younger readers a different story every night on CBeebies Bedtime Stories and on CBBC the award-winning Horrible Histories returns with a one-off special on Staggering Storytellers, which will take a look at some of literature’s greatest works and feature a special celebration of female writers. These are just some of the delights on offer, much of which will be available on demand on BBC iPlayer.
Books that Made Britain
In the autumn, the focus switches to the Books that Made Britain, including a search for the nation’s best-loved books.
On BBC Television, The Moonstone, a new adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ legendary novel will be broadcast over five consecutive days on BBC One Daytime. Described by TS Eliot as "the First and Greatest of English Detective novels", The Moonstone sees the charismatic gentleman detective Franklin Blake on the most important quest of his life - to solve the disappearance of the priceless Moonstone and win back Rachel Verinder, the love of his life. Brilliantly combining adventure with romance and some of British literature’s finest characters, this classic mystery’s twists and turns make The Moonstone the perfect afternoon treat.
Meanwhile, on Radio 4 throughout October the many strands that regularly feature writers (including Woman’s Hour, Start The Week, Midweek, Saturday Live, Loose Ends, Word Of Mouth, Desert Island Discs) will be celebrating the campaign, and there will be the usual mix of great literary listening in Book Of The Week, Book At Bedtime and the Short Story Slots.
On BBC Two, for three weeks in October, Saturday nights will be book nights with a range of programming including profiles, interviews, documentaries and coverage of the Man Booker prize.
What’s listed here is just the tip of the #LovetoRead iceberg as this celebration of reading will be across all the BBC’s networks and stations: locally, nationally and globally.
And like every good page-turner, I’ve left the best reveal to last. The season will culminate with the #LovetoRead weekend on 5 and 6 November when the BBC and partners will invite everyone, everywhere to read something new. BBC presenters from across all local, regional and network stations and channels will be an excellent source of inspiration. Presenters from local radio stations will be doing readings from their favourite books in their local libraries, as BBC presenters across local, regional and network stations and channels sign off with their reading recommendations.
For me and my reading habits that supermarket trip as a 14 year old was a watershed moment. I went on to read many of Stephen King’s scary writings and I’m never without a book on the go (although I’ve left the horror genre behind). My hope is that #LovetoRead can be a similar catalyst for thousands of others, introducing new readers to the pleasure of reading and for existing bookworms acting as a unifying moment to celebrate and shout about the books they love to read.
Stephen James-Yeoman is the Editor of Digital Projects for BBC Arts, including #LovetoRead and the Shakespeare Digital Season.
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce