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Catherine Bunting, Director, Research Strategy, Arts Council England

Case Studies

Client Issue
Arts Council England Exploration of the future of reading among the general public

As part of its long term public value programme, the Arts Council and its partners, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Reading Agency, wished to engage members of the public in a debate about the role and value of reading.  This was to form one of the inputs to the development of a programme to raise the profile of reading as a creative activity, strengthen its position on policy agendas and create a vision that various cultural agencies and particularly libraries, would help make a reality. 

Four groups of readers, from people who always have a book on the go, through to unenthusiastic readers who prefer newspapers and magazines, took part in reconvened three hour workshops.  Members of a book group took part in a single session. After the first workshop in which we explored existing attitudes to reading using a range of enabling techniques, participants were given various information and invited to do their own research in the week before the next workshop – for many, this included visiting their local library.  In the second workshop, we looked at their experiences and discoveries and their ideas for how people might be encouraged to read more.

The findings showed how reading was valued even by those who made little time for it themselves.  It pointed up what people got out of reading and why some lacked motivation, different attitudes to individual and ‘social’ reading (in which the experience of reading is shared) and how reading was generally seen as a creative activity.  It showed that people, regardless of their interest in reading, were brought together by the love of a good story which might be found not just in fiction but in newspapers, autobiography, genealogy and computer games with a strong narrative.  The inter-workshop ‘homework’, for some people, resulted in a marked change in their perception of libraries, book clubs and online material and more generally, helped stimulate the generation of ideas for encouraging more people to read and readers to get more out of their reading. 

Future of Reading (814.19Kb)

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