Rapid Reads from Orca Book Publishers

Adult Literacy Collections – The authors observed three main approaches to branding literacy collections:
  • Emphasis on reading for pleasure (with collections entitled ‘Quick Reads’ or ‘First Choice’);
  • Emphasis on reading for skills development;
  • Discreet labelling enabling stock recognition without advertising that the reader is borrowing literacy materials.
The authors conclude that the ‘Quick Reads’ approach was the most successful in highlighting the collection without stigmatizing it and in promoting the pleasure of reading. The importance of maintaining relevant, attractive books was highlighted, with collections targeting both entry level readers and emergent readers.
Stephanie Hall,
‘Quick Reads’ May Promote Literacy without Stigma
A review of: McLoughlin, Carla, and Anne Morris.
"UK Public Libraries: Roles in Adult Literacy Provision."

How about a bit of good news. According to Hall, the authors of this research, based on interviews at eight public libraries in the UK, were hoping to contribute to the "identification of best practice and recommendations" for libraries. She notes that the study has weaknesses. "For example, although the authors determine that a ‘Quick Reads’ approach was the most successful, it is unclear how this was measured. Were there higher circulation counts on those literacy materials?" Still, the research is generally encouraging.

For my part, I'm been totally neglectful when it comes to comparative or quantitative research in this area. I can tell you that over the period of two weeks (20 class periods) five adults read or are reading five 'quick read' type books (seven if you count individual borrowings rather than distinct titles) and one mass market fiction book. Does that mean anything? Don't know, really.

Oh! And did you guys know about Rapid Reads? The "quick read" style novellas published by Orca books? And if you did, why didn't you mention it?

On their "About" page, Orca Book Publishers called themselves "Western Canada's premier children's publisher" which may explain why I associated them with children's books. They're set up in Victoria BC, and make an effort to publish "Canadian authors... bringing them to a wider market." Their list of publications include:
  • Hardcover, high-quality Board Books and Picturebooks
  • Early chapter books in the Orca Echoes and Orca Young Readers series
  • Novels for reluctant readers in the Orca Currents, Orca Sports and Orca Soundings series
  • Standalone Juvenile Fiction and Teen Fiction novels
  • Orca titles translated into French and Spanish
  • Prepacked collections with teacher resource guides
  • Hi-Lo books for adults under the Raven Reads imprint

You can find their catalogue here, or they'll mail one out to you. About their Rapid Reads, they say these are "a new line of short novels for adult readers."

In our increasingly fast-paced world we believe there is a need for well-written, well-told novels that can be read in one sitting. Rapid Reads are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest short novel.

Rapid Reads focus first and foremost on strong writing and storytelling. We are committed to providing books that will help adults achieve their literacy goals in an interesting and accessible way. Each title in the Rapid Reads series is written between a 2.0 and 4.5 reading level. The plots are contemporary and entertaining, with adult language and themes. Reading guides with plot summaries and discussion questions for all Rapid Read titles are available for free download.

The one-sitting bit is a stretch - I'm a fast reader, but I couldn't get through, say, Love You To Death in one sitting. I'm guessing it took me about 5 hours. (Though, it's possible people out west sit still longer than we do - who can say?)

The reading level or measure of reading difficulty is a bit hard to swallow as well. They're in good company suggesting they've produced adult novellas at a 2.0 reading level (salesmen for Good Reads and Quick Reads also make these claims), but I think anyone who works with adults reading at a Level 2 will know better.

In fact, my one hesitation about the two books I've read so far is that they might not be accessible to adults reading below an independent 6.

But that's small potatoes. We need books. Our learners need books - lots and lots of books to read. As for the Reading Guides, they aren't bad. Here's the pdf file of the one for the ├╝ber dramatic novella Love You To Death.

And, just to put sauce on the goose, there's a video of Rapid Reads author Gail Bowen talking about Love You to Death and the Rapid Reads series.

So, yeah. Order some today. And if you can't, then go bug your public library or your Community College library (or maybe your local high school librarian).

And if that doesn't work, I suggest you get a-hold of The Centre for Literacy in Montreal or the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network (a.k.a Movement for Canadian Literacy) or ABC Life Literacy Canada or your provincial literacy coalition (or whoever is dispensing P.G.I. funds in your region). Tell these people your learners need books.

Tell 'em I sent you.

Tell 'em I said giving these books to you would be a Good Thing.

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