Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

How in the World Can We Get Them to Read More !?

I scan the news (filtered by Google) every day (plus, I use two other sources of aggregated article links) to find the information for my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts.

The WordPress “Reader” gives me links to others’ posts that I re-blog the remaining days of the week.


I’m looking at quite a few headlines and abbreviated blurbs every day

One of the recurrent topics is how to get various groups of people (younger and older) reading more.

There are three initiatives I’ll share today that win my personal approval as Creative and Worthy efforts.

We first turn our attention to the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca.

Basically, they gave a free bus ride to anyone reading a book.

The idea came from Victor Miron, a local literacy advocate.

In Victor’s own words:

“This was the third idea that we had about reading on the bus. The first idea was to put books in every bus. It is still something that we would like to do but you need a lot of books and special shelves for them on the bus. So the second idea was to put messages that encourage reading on the bus. So everyone could see them and maybe be inspired to read. So we got to the third idea where people had a really good incentive to read, traveling for free.”

It was a limited-time offer but they plan on doing it again

The second initiative comes from Dubuque, Iowa, USA.

They were having their second annual Back to School Bash in Comiskey Park and local barber, Courtney Holmes, gave a free haircut to any child that read to him.

One of the coordinators at the event said she “enjoyed watching Holmes help young children sound out the words they didn’t know yet.”

Apparently, Courtney is continuing to trade cuts for reads

And, the last way to get them reading that I’ll share comes from Scott Ertl, founder of Read and Ride.

This initiative has been adopted in 30 states and combines two activities that are both very good for humans—reading (obviously) and riding an exercise bike.

Ertl was a school counselor at Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

He and the principal got the program rolling and they discovered that time on the bikes translated into measurable improvement in reading proficiency.

Here are some ideas for getting a Read and Ride program going

And, check out this video about Read and Ride :-)

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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com


8 responses to “How in the World Can We Get Them to Read More !?

  1. M.L. September 6, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve struggled with this question as well. One solution I’ve implemented is called Chopped Lit ( The concept is simple: people receive a short excerpt (readable in under 5 minutes) from a classic book every day. It’s treating classic literature like dark green veggies: sure it’d be great if you consumed the whole thing, but even a little bit is good for you. It seems to be resonating with people.


  2. Alexander M Zoltai September 6, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Interesting, M. L., though it would seem to have a few drawbacks…

    One would be that it doesn’t really solve the problem—it seems, rather, to aid and abet it


  3. Mike September 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    There are some drawbacks, but I don’t find that to be one of them.

    It’s inserting literature into places people don’t normally find it (their inboxes, on twitter, even in memes), converting some of that time into time spent reading literature. And, though most books haven’t been treated this way, many Christian churches break the bible up into daily devotionals or weekly gospels: sometimes a whole book is overwhelming for people, even if they believe it’s valuable to them. It’s all about making people see the value in reading, and then helping them identify the books and authors that speak to them and their situations.

    If you have time, I’d be curious to hear more of your thoughts on it. (Either here or through email – mike (at)


  4. Alexander M Zoltai September 6, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    I understand what you’re saying about the initiative but I should give my “definition” of “reading” to explain my previous comment:

    “Reading” is involving oneself in another’s communication…

    Sure, the chunks of words in choppedlit are being “read” but the name itself seems to me to indicate its failure at helping folks “engage” in “reading”—chopped lit…

    I suppose an easier way to explain my feelings is to say I wish folks would engage more with literature and not just with chopped literature…


  5. Mike September 6, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    I understand what you’re saying and appreciate your time in helping me work through this, but I disagree.

    The examples provided in your post don’t involve any more engagement with a book than comes from my project, except that a physical book is in hand, which isn’t dispositive of engagement. I’d even argue that chopped literature involves more engagement.

    In any of the examples above, I could read the purest fluff ever written, mindless stories that take me nowhere new written by authors whom I know and find unoffensive. That’s not engagement in the way you mean it. It is entertainment, sure, but that’s it.

    Or I could be confronted by authors, thoughts, and ideas that may be new to me, ones that I had no choice in selecting. Even a single sentence, if it inspires me to think, causes engagement. It is me working the issue out with the author. Or it is realizing that this situation that feels novel existed hundreds of years ago. In 10 minutes, a person could read two excerpts from classic literature (hand selected from works preserved hundreds or thousands of years because they spoke to something of interest or value to modern readers) or they could read a chapter in the latest romance novel. Certainly engagement can come from both, but one is much more likely to cause it.

    The concept of chopping books (instead of hacking them) is inspired by chopping food: you don’t eat a whole cow, you eat certain parts that were selected by someone because they believed they would appeal to you for either their taste or nutritional value. Eating even a small meal can be engaging with your food. Or it could just be eating. That’s up to the individual.

    That’s my goal, too. Do some people read it without thinking? Maybe. But do others read it and think – either about a historical incident they’d never heard of, or a new viewpoint, or even just a situation that they might not have encountered in that context? I think they do. And the feedback I’m getting is they make up the vast majority of readers.

    Today, people are used to engaging with brief content: Tweets, memes, Facebook posts, brief comments on blogs and forums. Would their engagement be deeper and more thorough if they were more familiar with the author? Without a doubt. But some engagement with the author’s views is better than none at all. And I’m not sure that giving free rides to people who hold a book open on their laps is more effective than what I’m doing.

    Obviously, we don’t have to agree – and perhaps we won’t – but I’m grateful for the discussion.

    BTW, you’ve written 115 words in these comments and inspired this much thought from me. Now, imagine someone else shared your comments somewhere but deleted the first sentence from each of them. Their post would be 80 words (2/3 of the original) and while your message wouldn’t be as clear, it would probably cause similar engagement from me.


  6. Alexander M Zoltai September 6, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Well, I’m glad you’ve said we don’t have to agree…


  7. Mike September 6, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Well, then I am as well. Thanks again for the discussion. Best regards, Mike


  8. Alexander M Zoltai September 6, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    And, best regards to you, too, Mike.


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