Dawn Of The Unread In the UK, there's a prestigious broadsheet newspaper called 'The Guardian'. And each year, the Guardian awards a Teaching Excellence Award for a noted innovation within the field of learning. Thankfully, this year I'm happy to say the award went to my mate James and his Dawn of the Unread project. Want to know more? Then get a load of this...

1) What are your own origins, James? Plus what path did you take in life prior to getting to where you are today?   I was born in Reading, Berkshire, so I guess I was destined to become an avid reader! I’ve lived in Nottingham most of my life, which is the focus of my literary projects. Prior to this I was a printer, working long nightshifts and breathing in unhealthy amounts of acetone and solvents. But still. It gave me a lot of time to read, write, and think about what I wanted to do with my life.

2) What inspired the creation of ‘Dawn Of The Unread’?   Independent bookshops dropped to below 1,000 in February, 2014, and lots of libraries in the UK have faced severe cuts (all of which raised issues around the visibility of books). Illiteracy has also become a very big issue in the UK. We were recently voted 22nd out of 24 industrialised nations for illiteracy, and another survey by the National Literacy Trust found that reading outside of school has dropped by 25% since 2005. It was a combination of these factors that led to an important question: how do you engage a youtube generation who supposedly finds books boring? My solution is an interactive graphic novel that offers numerous ways of learning about authors. 

Dawn Of The Unread
3) In your own words how would you describe this interactive graphic novel? Plus can you give an example of how it interfaces with the app?   Whether we like it or not, the nature of reading has changed. Whereas knowledge was the driving force of the 20th century, now it is experience. To try to ‘lure’ in reluctant readers, we have set out four tasks at the end of each chapter which require users to visit literary locations, answer multiple choice questions, upload their own reactions to our comic (which they can view on public screens), and of course, loaning books from libraries. Scores are recorded on a virtual library card, and the person who scores the highest will feature as a character in our final chapter, published on the 8th of June. 

On a much simpler level, the comic has little ‘star’ icons on various panels that enable the reader to go deeper and learn more about the featured writer. This content is everything from audio, video, to contextual essays, and I guess works a little like a very specific hyperlink. As far as I’m aware, no comic has done this before.

4) What song would you say best represents this project and why?   From an editorial perspective it would be ‘Please, please, please, let me get what I want’ by The Smiths, as this entire project hinges on lots of people on a creative production line getting their work in on time. However, I would have to plump for Pete Unique’s The Killing Jar remix. This was a track specially commissioned for 'Dawn of the Unread', and has author Nicola Monaghan reading extracts from her book (The Killing Jar) over the top of the track.

5) If you could get a celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   Given that our project brings back to life dead writers from Nottingham’s past, I should really pick one of them. But instead, I’ll go for Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in Europe. It radically transformed communication, improved democracy, and created a space for the wide exchange of ideas. He is the grandfather of the written world and so I’m sure would be an excellent advocate for our project aimed at improving literacy levels in the digital age. 

6) What have you learnt about yourself through this endeavour?   I can drink a lot of coffee and require little sleep. Ha!

7) During your time in this field, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   Each of the 16 comics in the 'Dawn of the Unread' serial are written and drawn by different artists. They explore a wide range of styles and techniques, and so seeing that artwork for the first time is an unbelievable feeling. On a social level, producing and editing together a comic serial is really satisfying because you get to navigate the world through the minds of incredible, passionate people.

8) If ‘DOTU’ had a motto, what would it be?   There’s more to life than books, but not much more…

And on that note, dear reader, I'd like to thank James for telling us about his app-series combo, before directing you towards his website, facebook, and twitter pages.