Several Canadian authors are joining forces with a literacy group to launch a set of easy-to-read fiction books for adults with poor reading skills.
Called Quick Reads, the program run by the literacy foundation ABC Canada is patterned after a successful one in the U.K.
"It's a unique project," says Margaret Eaton, head of ABC Canada.
The project in Britain engaged the services of bestselling authors such as Maeve Binchy and Ruth Rendell to write simpler stories. As a result, adults with minimal literacy abilities said they wanted to read more after picking up the books.
Eaton says the Quick Read Canada books will be available next fall in libraries and literacy centres for free or, in retail stores for about $10. She says the project comes at a crucial time.
"Right now, with this economy, things are going so badly for so many people who are traditionally in low-skill jobs — manufacturing, forestry, mining — we're seeing those people flood into literacy centres who've lost their jobs," Eaton told CBC Radio.
Some of the bestselling Canadian writers hired for the three-year project include Joseph Boyden, Louise Penny and Gail Anderson-Dargatz.
"I'm having a riot writing it," says the B.C.-based Anderson-Dargatz.
"My mom only went to Grade 3, but she taught herself to read and write and she became quite the writer, and she passed on many of those skills and sensibilities to me."
Penny, a mystery novelist from Montreal, says the requirement to simplify her writing has been a good challenge.
"So many of my heroes — Hemingway, Josephine Tey and George Simenon — are really crystalline in the words they choose, so it's really forcing me to be much more disciplined than I normally would be."
A dozen books will be published over the project's three-year life, supported by the federal Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and publisher Grassroots.