It’s no secret that we love to read, and our fervent wish is that everyone could experience the joy of navigating new worlds thanks to the written word. An author after our own heart, Jillian Neal, she of the Gypsy Beach series, has made it her mission to end illiteracy. Her latest novel, Gypsy Hope, set to hit shelves on September 22, tells the story of Brock, a football star dealing with his illiteracy as he builds a relationship with his crush, Hope. One dollar from every book purchased will benefit ProLiteracy, a global organization that educates, shares resources and raises awareness. Take it away, Jillian!
Like many of you, I grew up between the pages of books. I fell in love with Gilbert Blythe walking the stunning landscape of Prince Edward Island. I lived on the frontier with Laura Ingalls, and begged my parents to buy me a pig so I could name him Wilbur. A few years after that, I read my first romance novel about a dashing, sword-wielding pirate who fell in love with the beautiful Cassandra and gave up his pirating ways, of course. Sadly, many children and adults cannot escape into the worlds that live so readily in the minds of readers. Around the world, 757 million adults over the age of 15 cannot read or write a simple sentence.
My oldest son was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was eight. After years of struggling to recognize and recall letters, words and numbers, we finally had an answer—Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the ability to read and comprehend, and those who struggle with it make up a large portion of illiterate Americans. We know that one in four American children grow up without learning how to read, and that students who don’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. My son was one of the lucky ones. He was diagnosed and steps were made to teach him to read, but so many just aren’t that fortunate.
I wanted to give voice to those who are illiterate. They need someone to tell their stories, and I am a storyteller. And thus, Gypsy Hope was born. Its hero, who is functionally illiterate, is multi-dimensional and fully realized. “Illiterate” does not mean “unlovable” or “unintelligent” and I think it’s important for our society to understand that. I believe in writing characters who could be real men and women with real problems, issues and failings. The beauty of love is that two people can share their vulnerability and grow together. It is our job as romance writers to illustrate this kind of love and, perhaps more importantly, to give hope.
I am so honored to have partnered with the ProLiteracy organization to bring you Brock and Hope’s story. ProLiteracy works globally to educate those in need, provide educational resources and to raise awareness. For every sale of Gypsy Hope I will be donating $1 to this worthy organization. The romance community is made up of fantastic authors and readers who want to help any way we can. Together we can stamp out this global crisis. You can make a direct donation to ProLiteracy, or support with your purchase of Gypsy Hope. This is an opportunity to read a passionate, sexy novel and provide the gift of reading to others in the process. If you are an author and might be interested in partnering with ProLiteracy, you can contact them via their website.
ProLiteracy’s mission statement says, “Every adult has the right to literacy.” I couldn’t agree more.