Dawn of the Unread

Rebecca Goldsmith
Tue 11 Apr, 2017

Rebecca Goldsmith has a mission: to bring zombies, books, and some of our best known local characters to readers all over our city....

Since February I’ve been on a mission for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature – to scope out the innovative project Dawn of the Unread, and how it might be used more widely in schools to support literacy development.

Dawn of the Unread is a multi-platform series of comics that are a playful take on the zombie genre. The premise is this: enraged at the lack of reading and poor levels of literacy in modern day Nottingham, ‘unread’ characters from the city’s literary history come back from the dead on a mission to save libraries and get people reading ‘boooooks’. 

The characters are not just relevant to a Nottingham audience.  From DH Lawrence as a zombie hunter, to Hitchcock’s wife and the fictional hybrid of Byron Clough (written in iambic pentameter), the comics cover an eclectic range of stories and styles that grab the reader’s attention and give them an insight into key cultural figures and events.  The comics delve into issues such as humanitarian aid; black history; alongside the plight of the libraries and more; with plenty of opportunities to inspire debate and encourage empathy.  They have been created by a collaborative host of top-notch artists and writers from the city, under the relentless undead-worthy steam of writer and educator James Walker.

charlie adlard photo

Charlie Adlard, UK Comics Laureate, with a copy of the book

Participation in the project has generated over fifty YouTube videos, a computer game, dance track and mobile app. It is a key part of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature’s drive to improve the city’s literacy and has won the Guardian University Award for Teaching Excellence.

There are 16 issues to choose from, and you can read each of them on the digital platform ( or in a glossy A4 print edition from Spokesman Books (Spokesman are an iconic slice of Nottingham’s cultural landscape too – a publishing imprint of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation offering up books on philosophy, politics, sociology, history, peace and human rights).

There’s an increasing interest in comic books and graphic novels recently, which seem to have a real capacity to engage young and reluctant readers.  The format is relevant and accessible, and the combination of visual cues alongside small chunks of text make it easier to decode.  Comics can act as an entry point to reading for pleasure, and as prompts for independent writing.

“ Comics can act as an entry point to reading for pleasure, and as prompts for independent writing.”

I’m now creating a learning resource to accompany Dawn of the Unread, which will include a set of guidance notes and a range of activities for use in lessons and libraries – perfect for National Writing Day!

We have already had wonderful support and input from staff at The Nottingham Academy and The Farnborough Academy in shaping the resource, but would welcome thoughts and suggestions for this, or the initiative more generally, from those in the education and cultural sectors. 

Have a browse through the comics online or order a copy to keep. Then forward your recommendations to us at


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