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Respecting other people's reading experience

What makes us think that the reader of romances is stuck in a dream world, an escapist, probably deeply unhappy with no social life? What makes reading a non-fiction serious book a virtue? What other prejudices have you noticed? What are science fiction readers like? What kind of life do readers of true crime lead? Have you ever heard someone apologise for their reading, 'Oh, I just read rubbish?'

There are more guilts, shames and snobberies attached to reading than probably any other art form. These may seem harmless but they do affect people very deeply and may prevent readers from venturing outside their own comfort zone – the area of reading that they perceive is for them.

Books do not arrive as a pre-ordained experience. A hundred readers of the same book will report a hundred different experiences, because what shapes our response is as much to do with who we are, our own personal hang-ups, passions and prejudices, as with the nature of the book itself.

Reader development encourages people to try something new and different, offering surprises. Helping readers to feel confident about their own reading choices is the key to empowering them to start taking a few risks.

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 Audience development

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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.

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.

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?