An Easy language book can deal with a difficult topic. A paradox? The question of easy and difficult is in reality about different aspects: readability and content.
Easy to Read books are mechanically easy to read. This means that the eye and brain can easily perceive and process the text. The language is also easy.
The contents may require more effort. Language level and topic do not always follow the same lines in other kinds of books either. The general idea that Easy to Read literature must contain easy content as well does not necessarily correspond to modern reality.
Easy to Read literature has developed a lot since the first books were published more than forty years ago. The variety of books and topics continue to grow. Today there are both entertaining and serious books. Quality can fluctuate, just as with any books. Still, all Easy books have one thing in common: The language is easy.
Good literature does not underestimate the reader. Easy books should be able to offer the same reading experience as any other book. A person with reading challenges can grasp the meaning, even when the reading process does not happen without obstacles. Reading ability, memory and perception are developed through reading, and Easy books support reading.
The requirements for Easy to Read books increase parallel to growing needs in society. As more and varied groups of readers use Easy literature, a bigger variation of topics and a greater complexity are wanted.
Today Easy books are used in language teaching, as extra reading and basis for discussions in education. Regular readers are also persons with cognitive challenges, weaker eyesight or lacking reading skills or reading habit, migrants, children who learn to read, elderly and persons with memory loss, but also capable readers. Each one of them has individual personalities, tastes and needs of literature.
Preparing a book for an Easy to Read version means to “translate” the text into Easy language. The reading experience is transmitted. The authors who write original Easy books confront a bigger challenge: the story should be appealing and at the same time clear, but it must absolutely not become banal.
If early Easy to Read authors sometimes avoided difficult themes, modern authors tackle them. Feelings and experiences, thoughts, conflicts and emotional processes and big life events, love and sorrow; are all present in the books today.
Focus on the reader
The reader is in the focus. But with such a great variation among readers, it is difficult to define a “typical Easy reader”. Easy to Read books are nowadays translated into other languages and intercultural aspects become more important.
The complexity and diversity in Easy language literature will therefore continue to grow and develop. The challenge is to offer the reader a rich reading experience in Easy language.
Author, researcher and trainer Sabira Stahlberg has written over twenty Easy to Read books and works internationally for increased knowledge about Easy to Read literature.
Pedagogical Easy to Read books: Villa Bokpil
Materials and tasks: Edu Bokpil
The project LäsLätt (‘ReadEasy’) 2020 for increasing and distributing information about Easy to Read is realised by Bokpil and Colorit ry.rf. and supported by The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland.