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RC&D#8: Never Do a Book Signing (Part 3)

March 28, 2009

Here’s the most important idea ever published in the blogosphere.



Today’s American schools lose book customers faster than any other entity. 

Literacy rates decline every year.  We graduate less every year.  More kids drop out every year.   The number of kids who graduate with decent literacy skills decreases every year.  Now, as is widely reported, America is now graduating teenagers with poorer educations than their parents—not just for the first time in American history, but for the first time the history of the modern world.

Don’t blame “No Child Left Behind.”  That’s a cop-out.  A scapegoat.  It started with color TV.  Ever since the invention of that beast, kids (and adults) read less and watch more.  And now, it’s all things digital that can scream in an earbud or glow through a pixel making matters worse.

If publishers do not jam their foot on the neck of the writhing, impotent educational system that can’t reverse literacy trends, no one will. 

Why?  Because publishers are THE frontline industry that has a stake in literacy outcomes and the creation of adults who LIKE and WANT to read. 

Currently, the publishing industry’s strategy for creating growth is awaiting the American Educational System to raise up the next generation of customers, and it’s not happening.  In case we haven’t noticed, we are already at least one generation behind.  Book sales are embarrassingly flat year-over-year-over-year largely because our country hasn’t produced a generation of Want-To Readers in a long time.

So here is the most important strategy publishers could implement that will not only bring book-selling back to life, but change, yeah even reinvent America itself. 

Give up on book signings altogether and insist that all authors tour our schools.

The plan is simple but far from easy and will require unprecedented partnerships with school systems. 

In a nutshell:

No English, reading or literature class in a middle school, high school, or college should be allowed to ever—and I mean EVER— let a single week pass without an author visit in the classroom. 

And every other discipline within our schools should require author visits at least once a month.  Including Phys Ed.

And not just magnet, charter, and high-end private schools.  Target the schools we now call “at-risk” in the urban and rural areas.

Forget deconstructing The Scarlett Letter.  Give up on 1984—it’s past tense.  Quit analyzing The Iliad and the Odyssey.  Stop forcing The Catcher in the Rye down teenager’s throats.  And, for Pete’s sake cease and desist with the memorization of Shakespeare.  Give kids what is being written now.


Authors of good books aren’t all dead.  Living authors are some of the most valuable resources of information and ideas in the world.  They can tell kids why they write books.  Why there is joy in reading.  Why their subject is important and why their particular perspective is viable and what their fiction is supposed to mean.  Let kids analyze and deconstruct books face-to-face with the authors who create the books.  Now we’re having fun at school.  Kids will start to love reading, love books, and love learning.

There are enough books and authors to go around.  But if we think we might run in short supply, we’ll make publishers and editors go, too.

Do this one thing and in less than 10 years:

  • Graduation rates will increase 10 percent.
  • Kids who can read at better than an 8th grade level at graduation will reach close to 100 percent.
  • Communities that implement such programs will experience exponential growth of companies interested in better schools and a more competent and engaged workforce.
  • Unemployment rates will reach all-time lows.
  • Voter participation will rise by at least 10 percent.
  • Companies will quit suffering from excruciating workforce readiness issues.
  • Crime will decrease 15%.
  • Tax revenues will be ample enough to take care of our communities’ basic needs and then some.
  • Books will be better written than ever and more relevant.
  • Oh, and book sales will experience double digit increases year-over-year.

Publishers and Educators, if you don’t know how to implement this kind of strategy, call the THE CENTER FOR READER CREATION AND DEVELOPMENT.  They’ll take it on one city at a time until everyone wakes up.  Oh, and by the way, publishers and educators need not do—nor fund—this alone.  Businesses and literacy organizations and their funders will join the fray.

Read Part 1


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