Titles from Akala, David Olusoga and Bolu Babalola part of Universal Music Group and The Reading Agency’s Mark My Words library campaign

The Reading Agency and Universal Music Group’s (UMG’s) UK Task Force for Meaningful Change, a team focused on the unique challenges facing the UK’s Black community, have today announced the titles for ‘Mark My Words’, a national libraries campaign celebrating Black authors.

The selection of titles for adults and children features non-fiction titles including Lemn Sissay’s memoir, My Name Is Why? (abridged) from this year’s Quick Reads series; Black and Great by Rene Germain; Natives by Akala; Black and British: A Short Essential History by David Olusoga and This Book is Antiracist by Tiffany Jewel. The fiction titles include Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola; Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-lymide and High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson.

The books were selected in line with the organisations’ joint commitment to social justice, championing the role that reading plays in tackling inequality in areas of life opportunity and wellbeing. The list aims to provide engaging and accessible titles which appeal to a broad audience of adults and children of different reading levels.

The need for reading material which is representative of the breadth of people’s experiences is well-evidenced. Studies have found that children’s books can support young people in the exploration of themselves and others, providing recognition, insight and understanding.1 Similarly for adults, reading for pleasure has been found to enhance empathy, an understanding of the self, and the ability to understand one’s own and others’ identities.2 However, studies show that writers of colour are ‘undervalued’ by the publishing industry, affecting the acquisition, promotion, and sales of their books.3 By championing these books and gifting free loan copies into libraries nationally, Universal Music Group and The Reading Agency hope to increase their readership and celebrate the creativity of Black authors.

A set of the eight books will be given to 701 library branches across 31 authorities nationwide, including Bradford, East Lothian, Leicester, Newcastle, Rochdale and Jersey. The books, 5,608 in total, will be available to borrow from libraries from late January.

Rene Germain, Author says: “I’m overjoyed to see that Black and Great has been selected to be part of this very important campaign. Readers from all backgrounds can only benefit from being exposed to books which reflect the diversity and richness of the communities we live in. I’m excited for everyone who gets their hands on these great titles.”

Dr. Menna Demessie, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Universal Music Group’s global Task Force for Meaningful Change says: “Authentic, creative storytelling is something we know a lot about at UMG. We’re so proud to be working with The Reading Agency on this important piece of work. Self-awareness, understanding, knowledge and empathy all play such a huge part in the journey towards equity – and this campaign is a beautifully powerful way to help us get there.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency says: “We are delighted to be gifting books by such exciting and inspiring Black authors as part of this campaign. The Reading Agency is committed to reflecting the communities we serve through our programmes and initiatives, and ‘Mark My Words,’ in partnership with Universal Music Group, helps us to work towards that goal by getting books by excellent Black authors in the hands of people up and down the country.”

Follow the latest developments on social media:

@ReadingAgency #MarkMyWords

Radio 2 Book Club arrives on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

Zoe Ball revealed to her listeners today that the new home of The Radio 2 Book Club will be The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show!

The Radio 2 Book Club will feature a wide range of titles and authors, recommending great reads from both new and much-loved writers, encouraging listeners to perhaps try out a genre they might not have read before, and share their opinions and insights on the titles and great reads they’re enjoying right now.

As well as being featured on Zoe’s show, The Radio 2 Book Club will also be available as a weekly podcast on BBC Sounds with bitesize episodes of around 10-20 minutes. In the first episode, Zoe chats to some of the best fiction authors around to learn more about their latest novels, writing routines and literary loves; in the second, she speaks to a librarian to find out which books are flying off their library’s shelves at the moment; and in episode three, Zoe speaks to a Radio 2 listener book group to find out what reads they are currently enjoying.

The first title to be featured in The Radio 2 Book Club is Someone Else’s Shoes by JoJo Moyes, as revealed by Zoe in today’s Breakfast Show so listeners can get stuck in and share what they think about it via social media @bbcradio2 and emailing the show at [email protected], sending in their own short reviews of the book which might be read out on air!

Zoe Ball says: “The best escapism for me has always been to get lost in another world in a good book, where our imaginations are sparked, tested and tickled by ingenious authors on wild, winsome and often thoroughly emotional journeys. The Radio 2 Book Club has a top notch track record for recommending the best reads, and we’d love our listeners to share their thoughts and discoveries with us whether from a well-loved or exciting new author. I extend a very warm welcome to everyone to join us for The Radio 2 Book Club in its brand new home on my Breakfast Show and can’t wait to be the bookish ringmaster, bringing authors and listeners together to chat all things literary!”

Helen Thomas, Head of Radio 2, says: “As well as playing the best music from the past seven decades presented by the UK’s best loved presenters, Radio 2 is also to proud offer listeners so much more, from specialist music seasons to documentaries on the worlds of film and theatre, so I’m thrilled to be starting this new chapter of The Radio 2 Book Club with the accompanying podcast on BBC Sounds. I look forward to celebrating the joy of reading with Zoe and her listeners, who I hope will enjoy getting stuck into all sorts of books and discovering new authors, many of whom could be the next big thing in publishing!”

JoJo Moyes says: “I’m thrilled that Someone Else’s Shoes has been chosen to be part of The Radio 2 Book Club. I can’t wait to chat to Zoe about the novel, and for the Radio 2 listeners to meet my latest characters, Nisha and Sam!”

As well as JoJo Moyes’ book, the next three titles to be featured in The Radio 2 Book Club were also announced today:

The Silence Project by Carole Hailey: A debut novel which asks what it would be like to be the daughter of a woman who started a cult that changed the world.

Carole Hailey says: “I’m delighted that The Silence Project has been chosen for The Radio 2 Book Club. I spent so long writing this book, not knowing if anyone other than my friends and family would even read it, so to know that it will be discussed on the biggest (and best!) breakfast show in the UK is the most fantastic feeling.”

Other Women by Emma Flint: The new novel from Emma Flint is a devastating story of fantasy, obsession and the lengths we will go to in order to save the ones we love.

Emma Flint says: “I am absolutely over the moon that Other Women has been chosen for The Radio 2 Book Club. This kind of support is invaluable to authors. I can’t wait to take the novel out into the world and hear what readers think.”

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff: A debut novel in which a young Indian woman finds the false rumours that she killed her husband surprisingly useful, until other women start asking her to get rid of their own.

Parini Shroff says: “I am honoured that my debut novel, The Bandit Queens, has been selected for the Radio 2 Book Club, which is such an invaluable platform for new and established voices, alike!”

The Radio 2 Book Club has been running since 2010, championing new novels and giving a platform to debut authors who will become future literary stars. Previous Radio 2 Book Club titles include The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, The Cut by Chris Brookmyre, Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Us by David Nicholls, The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey, Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus and Apples Never Fall by Lianne Moriarty.

The Radio 2 Book Club first launched on Radio 2’s Drivetime show (5-7pm), before moving onto Jo Whiley’s show(7-9pm) and then to Steve Wright (2-5pm) to ensure different sections of the Radio 2 audience could hear it. Now it’s found a new home in The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show.

The Radio 2 Book Club is supported by The Reading Agency who oversee the submissions and send the books to librarians across the country to read and give their feedback on. This leads to the creation of a shortlist, from which Radio 2 then selects the titles to feature.

About the authors

Jojo Moyes is a novelist and journalist. Her books include the bestsellers Me Before You, After You and Still Me, The Girl You Left Behind, The One Plus One and her short story collection, Paris for One and Other Stories. Her novels have been translated into forty-six languages, have hit the number one spot in twelve countries and have sold over thirty-eight million copies worldwide. Jojo lives in Essex.

Carole Hailey completed the six-month Guardian/UEA novel writing course taught by Bernardine Evaristo, who inspired her to pursue a MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, followed by a PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea University. Carole was a London Library Emerging Writer 2020/21. Her debut novel, The Silence Project, was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award 2020.

Emma Flint grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, and graduated from the University of St. Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, later completing a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. She worked in Edinburgh for four years and now lives in North London. Her debut novel, Little Deaths, was longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Parini Shroff received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied under Elizabeth McCracken, Alexander Chee and Cristina García. She is a practicing attorney and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bandit Queens is her debut novel.

Forthcoming highlights on Radio 2 include:

  • A two-part documentary, Happy Birthday Tony Blackburn: 80 Poptastic Years, marking Tony’s 80th birthday and presented by Dermot O’Leary (Saturday 28th January & Saturday 5th February), with the accompanying Tony Blackburn: Your Soul Mate Playlist available on BBC Sounds.
  • Mica’s Gospel Gold returning with a four-part series (from Sunday 5th February).
    Owain Wyn Evans launching the new Early Breakfast Show on Monday 13th February (Monday to Friday, 4-6.30am), presenting live each day from BBC Cymru Wales broadcast centre in Cardiff.
  • The Showstopper, presented by actor Jonathan Bailey, looking at the devastating impact and heartbreak that HIV had on the theatre communities on Broadway and the West End in the 1980s, but also telling how this community supported those affected with the theatre world becoming a voice of awareness and suppressing fear (to be broadcast in March).
  • The newly-written songs created for Radio 2’s 21st Century Folk and James Morrison’s Top Brass series are all available on BBC Sounds, and the Radio 2 Piano Room month sees an abundance of world famous, award-winning artists each perform exclusively with the BBC Concert Orchestra from Monday 30 January to Friday 24 February 2023 – hear all the performances on Radio 2 and BBC Sounds and watch the performances on BBC iPlayer.

Tom Fletcher launches Blue Peter ‘Amazing Authors’ Writing Competition

Winning entry will be turned into a book and read as a CBeebies Bedtime Story.

Singer and children’s author Tom Fletcher is giving his backing to Blue Peter’s latest competition offering budding young writers a money can’t buy prize.

The Amazing Authors competition, run in partnership with The Reading Agency and BBC Arts, opens for entries next Friday (27th January 2023) and will ask young viewers to pen a short story or poem. The winning story will then be brought to life as a book and read as a CBeebies Bedtime Story.

Burgeoning young authors will need to come up with a brilliant main character, which could be a human, animal, or something completely imaginary – who gets caught up in an amazing adventure.

Their work will then be turned into a book and an animation, creating a wonderful story brought to life by award-winning animation studio, Aardman, thanks to funding support from the Arts Council’s National Lottery Project Grants. It will be read by Tom on Blue Peter and will even be available as a podcast on BBC Sounds.

As part of this once in a lifetime prize, the winner will also get to go behind the scenes at HarperCollins and Aardman to see how characters are illustrated and books are published before receiving a printed version of their story to treasure forever. They will also receive a framed picture from the animation and a Blue Peter competition winner’s Orange Badge.

The competition is open for entries from 27th January and closes at 5pm on 8th March 2023.

Tom says: “I absolutely love sharing stories and books with my own children and seeing their eyes light up as they are transported into another world, so it’s brilliant to be part of the Blue Peter Amazing Authors Competition. I’m still enthralled by children’s books even as an adult, so it will be a real privilege to see what ingenious ideas and characters the kids themselves come up with.”

Editor of Blue Peter, Ellen Evans, explains the show wanted to work with a leading children’s author like Tom as a way of firing up children’s imaginations and encouraging them to visit their local library, to get excited about books and writing stories.

She says: “I’m so looking forward to reading all of the stories that are submitted from our viewers and I have no doubt there are lots of aspiring young writers out there with a huge amount of talent.”

The Amazing Authors competition is a collaboration between BBC Studios Kids & Family, BBC Arts and The Reading Agency. The Reading Agency is providing schools and libraries with resources and delivering a workshop to encourage children to enter and to give tips on how to get started. More information on booking this session can be found here.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency says: “We are really excited to be working with BBC Arts on this fantastic competition with Blue Peter. By engaging children across the country in writing for pleasure, we hope that we’ll see the children building their confidence and their broader reading habits. We’d also like to thank Tom and his publisher Puffin Books for their generous support.”

Suzy Klein, Head of Arts and Classical Music TV, says: “Cultivating a lifelong love of reading is central to what we do at the BBC and this competition is an opportunity to celebrate the next generation of brilliant writers. I can’t what to see the stories our Amazing Authors bring to life and look forward to this wonderful showcase of reading and imagination.”

The competition is open for entries now. The competition closes at 5pm on Wednesday 8th March 2023.

Amazing Authors Creative Writing Workshop

Join the Amazing Authors creative writing workshop!

Get involved in the upcoming creative writing workshop that can streamed into your classroom to inspire children to enter Blue Peter’s Amazing Authors competition with The Reading Agency and BBC Arts.

Children will join Blue Peter presenter Joel Mawhinney and author Mitch Johnson for this exciting workshop that will spark their imagination and get them started writing their competition entry. The live workshop will be available to watch on catch up on The Reading Agency’s YouTube.

This free event will take place via Zoom webinar and teachers and school librarians will be sent a link to join in their confirmation email. Whilst the event will be interactive, children will not be able to speak directly to each other or the presenters.

This workshop is supported by the National Centre for Writing.

Find out more about competition.

The workshop will take place on Thursday 9th February at 11am. Book your place now.

‘Dip into Reading’ and Reap the Wellbeing Benefits this Winter

The Reading Agency and Welsh Libraries are encouraging you to ‘Dip into Reading’ and reap the wellbeing benefits this winter.

We have teamed up with Welsh Libraries to promote the link between regular reading and improved health outcomes this winter. Supported by Welsh Government, libraries across Wales will be involved in the public information campaign ‘Dip into Reading’ which aims to promote small amounts of reading each week to support people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Research shows that adults who read for just 30 minutes each week are more likely to report greater life satisfaction, self-esteem and are better able to cope with difficult situations, with library users reporting better overall health than non-users.

Co-ordinated by The Reading Agency, libraries across the country will receive a pack including ideas for libraries to encourage their communities to dip into reading with activities including book swaps, reading groups and author visits.

Libraries across Wales will be hosting a range of activities as part of Dip into Reading – check out your local library authority website for a schedule of events.

Karen Napier MBE, CEO, The Reading Agency said:

“The link between regular reading and improved wellbeing is well-known, and we are delighted to work with our partners in Wales to spread this message to the public and celebrate reading this winter. We know that the work we do to inspire engagement in reading across the UK is made possible by the commitment of our library partners and are delighted to be working with them on Dip into Reading.”

Learn more about the benefits of reading by check out our Reading Facts page.

Want to promote the Dip into Reading message? Download online resources here.

The Reading Agency

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