Literacy Tsar to encourage the Bebo generation


By Alexander Lawrie

SCOTLAND is to get a teenage literacy tsar in a bid to encourage the Bebo generation to read more books.

In a country that has produced literary giants such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Ian Rankin there are real fears the age-old tradition is suffering.

But now the Scottish Book Trust (SBT) is set to appoint a Virtual Writer in Residence who will use the internet to get youngsters hooked on reading and writing.

The successful candidate will be announced next month after the success of an earlier pilot scheme.

Jasmine Fassl, an SBT spokesperson, said the virtual writer will not be based in any one location, will be working primarily online and will have a large task on their hands.

She said: “It’s a big challenge to encourage young people to spend time reading and writing at a time when there are so many other things for them to do with their spare time.

“But we are going to be trying lots of different ways of engaging with them through mediums that teenagers use.

“What people tend to overlook is that young people are communicating with one another more than ever, via emails, text messaging and social networking websites.”

Writer must be resident in Scotland

And Ms Fassl has admitted the rise in sales of teen fiction is offering encouragement for the future.

She added: “Harry Potter is for slightly younger readers, but the Twilight books are making a huge impact.

“What I find absolutely amazing and very encouraging is that you are now seeing young people carrying the Twilight books as accessories, as well as reading them.”

The four fantasy novels written by American author Stephenie Meyer and have sold over 53 million copies worldwide and have spawned a Hollywood movie starring Kristen Stewart.

The SBT virtual writer must be resident in Scotland and will receive a remuneration of £3,500 with additional fees for expenses.

It is understood a number of high-profile authors have already put their name forward for the position.

Ms Fassl said: “The plan is for them to carry out different exercises every month and post the results on the website to show other young readers what can be achieved.”

Previously, Keith Gray, author of teen novel Ostrich Boys, piloted the literary scheme.

He commissioned exclusive short stories for the SBT website and uploaded podcasts on his work and writing tips.

Ms Fassl added: “Keith did a fantastic job and we are now looking to build and expand on his hard work and achievements.”