Friday, September 24, 2010


The mysterious road to Literacy.

A story in this morning's newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen, heralds that today is National Punctuation Day in the U.S. And it's the seventh year for this annual event. The organizer, Jeff Rubin, a former journalist is leading the fight against "bad punctuation, bad spelling, bad grammar -- sloppy writing overall." A valiant fight, supported in particular by those of us whose children went through the "Just write whatever you want" method of English in our schools not so long ago. Spelling, grammar, punctuation be damned. And, oh yes, you're on your own when you hit university where it does matter.

The amazingly funny Lynne Truss, a Brit whose newspaper columns are available in book form and always put a smile on my face, tackled this topic with the cleverly titled, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation).

Back to the newspaper article which also states that "40 per cent of Canadian adults have literacy skills below high school graduate requirements", that's not news as low literacy rates have been a problem for some time now.

What is fairly recent on the scene are Rapid Reads, a new line from Orca Book Publishers (released this past spring), best known for their quality children's books. Rapid Reads, however is aimed at an adult audience, to provide well-written, interesting, easily read books that hold the reader's attention and address lower reading skills. These are ideal for ESL students as well as anyone struggling with reading.

What's particularly interesting, I find, is that the majority of their titles are mysteries, and written by such well-known authors as Gail Bowen and Medora Sale.

In Medora's book, The Spider Bites, the main character is a cop who is under suspension, on suspicion of corruption. After working on a farm for 5 months, he returns home, only to have his apartment fire-bombed, with someone in it. The trail leads Rick Montoya (the cop) through a maze of suspects and, along the way, to re-unite with his estranged wife. It's a strong plot, suspenseful, with interesting characters and well-written, even though written to be read with ease.

Gail Bowen has a second novel in this series due out this fall, as does Lou Allin. And Barbara Fradkin is working on one, also. Rapid Reads may be just what the Literacy Doctor ordered! And, they'll turn a whole new reading public onto mysteries.

Well done, Orca! And, cudos to our Rapid Reads authors, too.

I'm always interested in what's being done to raise the Literacy level...what's happening where you live?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase


  1. I suffer from comma rage, so I love this, Linda!

    What great news about the Rapid Reads (not rapid read's) books. Literacy is everybody's business and this is a terrific and entertaining initiative.


  2. Maybe this is a good spot to announce that the Ladies' Killing Circle is hosting a mystery evening in support (in part) of People, Words and Change, a non-profit tutoring service for adults with reading difficulties. The "Ladies" made up of Linda Wiken, Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, Joan Boswell, Vicki Cameron and Sue Pike have invited other local writers to risk their reputations on a panel called, "Would I Lie to You?"
    If you're in Ottawa on Saturday, Oct 23, do join us at Glebe St. James United Church, 650 Lyon Street at 7:30 pm. Wine and nibbles. Cost $25

  3. ,,,,, you say, MJ?

    Thanks, Sue...we'll get the word out for this worthy cause, too.