And now for something a little bit different... I'm joining the Random Things Tours blogtour for the new Books on the Hill kickstarter.
If I have a purpose on this blog (and, let's face it, on a bad day it can be hard to tell) it's to share my love of reading and of what I read. Reading for me is an escape, a space to call my own, a window into other worlds - a thing that can help me empathise with others, or simply get me out of myself when I need to.
I feel enormously privileged to be able to take part in the world of books, comics and magazines.
It's a cruel fact that that world isn't equally accessible to everyone. There are a number of different reasons for that, and today's blogpost highlights an effort to overcome one of them - the lack of accessible books for adults with dyslexia. You may already be aware of Books on the Hill as a bookshop - well here they are, as a publisher, BOTH Press, tackling that problem.
Books on the Hill is Alistair Sims. He is the manager and commander-in-chief of the bookshop (though his partner, Chloe and his mother, Joanne, who set up the bookshop with him, may disagree with this description ). Alistair is dyslexic and has a PhD in history and archaeology. Alistair could not read until he was 13 and is passionate about helping anyone who has difficulty reading. He is the driving force behind BOTH Press and has been involved in every step in this project, from finding award winning authors to contribute, the cover design, and the road to publication, including setting up for distribution.
'Books on the Hill is passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. There are great books out now for children with dyslexia, with specialist publishers like Barrington Stokes and mainstream publishers such as Bloomsbury doing their part. However, there are sadly very few books for adults with Dyslexia in traditional mass market publishing.
Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading and writing skills. The NHS estimates that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some form of dyslexia, while other dyslexic organisations believe 1 in 5 and more than 2 million people in the UK are severely affected.
Dyslexia does not stop someone from achieving. There are many individuals who are successful and are dyslexic. Famous actors, such as Orlando Bloom; Entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis, and many, many more, including myself. All of who believe dyslexia has helped them to be where they are now. Dyslexia, though, as I can attest to, does not go away. You don’t grow out of it, and so we are acknowledging that and trying to without being patronising, create a selection of books that will be friendly to people who deal with dyslexia every day.
Since we started the project in 2019, Books on the Hill have had many adults customers with dyslexia come in shop the asking for something accessible to read. For example, one customer asked if we stocked well known novels in a dyslexic friendly format. Unfortunately we had to say no, as they just don’t exist. We explained what we are trying to achieve by printing our own and she replied:
“I have been reading [children dyslexic] books but they are a bit childish so am really happy I have found your company!! Thanks so much again and thank you for making such a helpful and inclusive brand - it means a lot."
This response is not isolated. We have had many adults come in to the shop with dyslexia, who do not read or struggle to read and they they believe dyslexic friendly books would have real impact on their reading for pleasure.'
So what are Books on the Hill doing?
They're making exciting good quality fiction accessible to a minority group currently not provided for by today’s UK traditional mass book market and providing a new tool for booksellers to use in their drive to increase diversity and inclusion.
The immediate aim is to publish and print 8 titles of dyslexic friendly books for adults. The longer term goal is to continue publishing good quality adult fiction to produce a wide range of books for people who have challenges when reading.
Who are they working with?
Books on the Hill have persuaded many great authors to contribute to this project. All are brilliant authors and are names I am sure you will recognise.
- Stan Nicholls, the author of many novels and short stories but is best known for the internationally acclaimed Orcs: First Blood series.
- Steven Savile, the fantasy, horror and thriller writer, now lives in Stockholm whose father is a customer of Books on the Hill
- The horror duo that is Thana Niveau and John Llewellyn Probert, both well established and engaging authors and also residents of Clevedon.
- Adrian Tchaikovsky is an Arthur Clark Award winner and best known for his series Shadows of the Apt, and for his novel Children of Time.
- Steven Poore is the highly acclaimed fantasy writer who Alistair first met on his first fantasy convention in Scarborough.
- We finish the Magnificent Seven with Joel Cornah, who also has dyslexia, and with whom Alistair participated in a podcast on dyslexia for the Clevedon Literature 2020 'Festival in the Clouds'.