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Making the reader visible

Reading is something we do by ourselves in private. There are more readers than there are practitioners of any other art form but because reading is largely an individual and domestic habit, this is often overlooked. Imagine all the readers of a bestseller brought together in one space as happens with music or sport ....

Reader development celebrates the act of reading and recognises the role of the reader as an active rather than a passive one. Most visual representations of literature concentrate on the writer or the book; it's our job to get the readers visible too.

A simple example, run in many libraries, is to take photographs of consenting borrowers as they leave the library with the books they have chosen. The photographs are always interesting and lively and often serve to challenge stereotypes about the type of people who read particular kinds of books. The photographs are a good way to start a readers' board or a series of reader-centred promotions. Above all, they announce that readers are present as a creative, critical and active force in the world of books and literature.

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 Audience development

Related Resources

Putting the reader first

The literature world concentrates mainly on writing and publishing. This is true of both the commercial sector and the arts funding sector. Opening the Book's unique contribution has been to introduce the concept of intervening at the point of consumption.

Respecting other people's reading experience

What makes us think that the reader of romances is probably deeply unhappy with no social life?

A reader-centred approach to quality

Reader development takes an inclusive approach to whatever people are reading. We don’t need to make value judgments about the 'quality' of books as we shift the focus to the quality of the reading experience.

Opening up reading choices

Think about all the barriers that we have to overcome every time we pick a new book to read. Is this the kind of book I usually like? Is it too heavy? Too light? Will it bore/scare/offend me?