So if I told you that 12 million people in the UK have difficulties with reading and writing, would you believe me? If I also told you that over one third of the population in this country don't pick up a book - would you believe that? - It's pretty shocking isn't it? And it's true.
For someone like me, who's always loved reading, I found it pretty shocking, but then maybe I'm one of the lucky ones. Maybe because I was introduced to reading at an early age by my parents, who always encouraged me to explore and devour books, they showed me the pleasure that books could give you, and that's stayed with me as I've progressed through life. I'm grateful for that, but that isn't everyone's experience when it comes to reading.
It's incredibly hard to imagine what it must be like to go through day to day life without being able to read. Perhaps it's akin to being in a foreign country where you don't speak the language? Those who can't read have an unavoidable lack of choice; from not being able to vote because they can't read the ballot forms to avoiding public transport due to complicated timetables.
In a decade when video games and television are the preferred choice of passing time, it's perhaps not surprising that one in six adults cannot read past the level of an 11-year-old. Not only this, but many who can read competently simply don't have the time to pick up a book or find the thought of reading vast tomes completely overwhelming, even Harry Potter- a children's book - the largest of which stretches to 766 pages (The Order of the Phoenix).
Unfortunately, there isn't a simple solution to this problem, but there are ways in which we can encourage those to read again and discover the pleasures that a good book can bring. This month, Galaxy Quick Reads is launching eight new books written by some of the world's best-selling authors including Maeve Binchy, Tony Parsons, Alexander McCall Smith and Lynda La Plante. Supported and sponsored by GALAXY®, Quick Reads is a major initiative undertaken by the book trade and reaches out to some of the most struggling and economically deprived people across the UK and Ireland.
Over the past six years the Quick Reads charity has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the joys of reading through its Quick Read short books. Each one is a brilliant, bite-sized novel by a world class author and regardless of whether it's fiction or non-fiction, they are all easy to read.
Literacy is such an important aspect of life and yet, if you can't read it will take over and limit your life. Figures from research released this week by Galaxy Quick Reads and The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) revealed that taking the UK literacy rate to 100% could provide a boost to the economy of over £70bn. It could also increase personal income by up to £2,334 and in the current economic market of rising bills and the price of commodities, there has never been a better time to get reading.
Galaxy Quick Reads books are available in high street bookstores, major supermarkets, libraries via iTunes and online, and are priced at £1.99 each.
The full line up of Galaxy Quick Reads books and authors for 2012 is:
Full House by Maeve Binchy (Orion)
The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown)
Quantum of Tweed: The Man with The Nissan Micra by Conn Iggulden (HarperCollins)
The Little One by Lynda La Plante (S&S)
Beyond the Bounty by Tony Parsons (HarperCollins)
Amy's Diary by Maureen Lee (Orion)
Get the Life You Really Want by James Caan (Penguin)
Doctor Who: Magic of Angels by Jacqueline Rayner (Ebury)