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.