Can Julianne Moore Be Our New Book Club President Please?

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images.
Julianne Moore is mainly known for her work on the big screen. But the actress also happens to be an author, nine times over — her children's series, Freckleface Strawberry, is aimed at helping kids realize that the things that set them apart are also the things that make them special — as well as a longtime bibliophile who dates her love of books back to days spent reading Little Women and Little House on the Prairie as a kid. "I feel like learning how to read and being a literate person is what opened the world to me," Moore told Refinery29 in early September. "Once you read, you know you’re not alone." We spoke to the Freeheld star about early childhood education, the work she's doing with Project Literacy — a movement aimed at eradicating illiteracy and all the issues that stem from it — and her own lifelong love of reading.
You've been involved in literacy advocation for a long time. Why this particular cause?
"[Reading] is an important way we communicate our essential humanity. So when you think about being cut off from that because you are illiterate — think how marginalized you are. And we’re not just talking about reading books. Illiteracy is related to every global development issue. You have poverty and crime and health care and gender equality. Everything comes back to illiteracy... "A woman who is educated and literate is less likely to have a child who is genitally mutilated — less likely to be a child bride, more likely to have opportunity in the world. The more you educate mothers, the more educated their children [will be]."

"I like to hold a book: I find I lose interest in something digitally."

Julianne Moore
What is one major thing you think people don't realize about literacy rates in the U.S.?
"People don’t understand that literacy rates have remained stagnant since 2000 — that’s pretty surprising in a world where we think we’re being super progressive. We have 70% of the prison population in the United States reading at a fourth grade level; people are functionally illiterate. The ability to read and write affects way way more than ‘can you read a book?’ It affects 'can you read medication instructions on a bottle? Are you able to access transportation? Are you able to get a job that’s not solely manual labor? "One of the other issues we have is that people end up in crime and in poverty because they have not been educated. It’s that kind of cycle. So where do you start? I’d rather start with early childhood education." That's something that's come up in the election debates: early childhood education versus nationalized healthcare. Do you have thoughts on which is more pressing?
"I think we have enough money to go around. I mean, frankly, I don’t think it should be an either-or situation. Even though we’re always talking about deficits, we’re obviously a wealthy, first world society. It should be our obligation to make sure that everybody’s educated and everybody has access to health care." What books made you fall in love with reading as a kid?
"There were so many. Certainly as a kid, everything my mother read to me — Laura Ingalls Wilder: To be able to kind of choose an author in the first grade from [ages] seven to 10, to go through that series that way, was incredibly meaningful. Louisa May Alcott’s books. There were many, many." What's on your reading list these days, and do you go e-reader or old school?
"I just finished Ian McEwan’s The Children Act. And I’m in the middle of George Saunders' new book. I like to hold a book: I find I lose interest in something digitally. It might be the way my brain works — the way I’ve trained by brain to read. I don’t have the same level of engagement with digitized stuff in fiction. With books, I like an actual book."

More from Books & Art

R29 Original Series