Reading list

<p>Another year, another list. This time, 34 &ldquo;Reading Heroes&rdquo; chosen by the National Year of Reading. The aim of the list is to celebrate, and acknowledge, people either for whom learning to read or improving their reading skills have transformed their lives or those who, with support and encouragement, have helped transform the lives of others.</p>
<p>There are four categories: individuals who developed their reading skills in challenging circumstances and have gone on to transform their lives and/or those of others; those who do not work in literacy or education per se, but have made a real difference to readers&rsquo; lives; professionals; and &ldquo;celebrities&rdquo;. The criteria for judging included the impact on the lives of others and/or themselves; how an individual&rsquo;s contribution reflected the overall aims of NYR, which drew to a close in December 2008 and, finally, how their own creativity and resourcefulness helped overcome any personal challenges or barriers to reading.<br />
Individual stories, which lie behind any list of names, matter more than statistics or headlines in the newspaper.</p>
<p>The campaign kicks off in earnest in February. For now, although the full list is available on the NYR website (www.yearofreading.org.uk), certain names are more familiar than others. In the &ldquo;Celebrity&rdquo; category, alongside bestselling novelist Anthony Horowitz, is the former mafia gang leader turned author, Louis Ferrante, whose memoir, <i>Unlocked: A Journey from Prison to Proust</i>, details his personal journey from mobster to writer. In the &ldquo;Individual Achievers&rdquo; category is adult literacy campaigner Sue Torr MBE, whose autobiographical <i>Secrets</i> is an essential and sober account of the reality of life without literacy.</p>
<p>Lists divide people. Some think they are too much of a blunt instrument. Others, while admitting that a list of names is only the starting point, consider they are as good a way as any to draw attention to people or ideas that might otherwise struggle for recognition.</p>
<p>Moreover, the NYR list is a reminder of what has been achieved and of best practice, and also that literacy&mdash;and the battle against illiteracy&mdash;must continue to be at the heart of the publishing agenda, not an adjunct to it.</p>
<p>Times will be tough in 2009. It is clear the book industry fears that, this time, books will not necessarily prove recession proof. We are all going to think about areas of growth, how both to sustain and grow the potential reading audience. It is another reason why we sho&shy;uld celebrate those who, often in difficult circumstances, have achieved so much. And why, even though NYR is over, the work must continue.</p>