The Reading Agency launches digital platform to support adult reading

The Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme relaunches on 1 February with a brand-new digital platform. The programme uses the proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges by supporting less confident adult readers to build their reading skills and confidence. It is backed by seven high profile author ambassadors committed to promoting adult reading and literacy. Andy McNab, Adele Parks, Dreda Say Mitchell, Bali Rai, Martina Cole, Peter James and Mahsuda Snaith are supporting the launch by sharing what they love about reading, why it is important and recommendations to get people started on their Reading Ahead journey.

Recommendations include Stevie Wonder’s lyrics to ‘Living for the City’ from Dreda Say Michell; Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ and the graphic novel version by author Ryan North and illustrator Albert Monteys from Peter James; and the ‘best recipe ever for Toad in the Hole’ on the BBC website from Andy McNab.

“The Reading Agency connects with hard-to-reach communities to improve literacy skills and gets people who otherwise might not pick up a book, reading. I am a huge admirer of what the Agency does, so what an honour to be part of such an innovative and ground-breaking initiative that truly makes a difference in people’s lives.” – Dreda Say Mitchell, Reading Ahead Ambassador

Reading Ahead challenges participants to choose six reads – they don’t have to be books! – and record their thoughts in a reading diary. In 2018-19, over 30,000 people took part in Reading Ahead through public libraries, colleges, workplaces and prisons. Through encouraging and supporting young people and adults to read for pleasure the programme consistently finds that participants report increased confidence and improved skills. An evaluation of the 2019-20 programme will be published in February 2021.

In response to the challenges of the pandemic The Reading Agency has taken Reading Ahead online with the option to take part through a digital platform. The new website will allow participants to record their reading and share ratings and reviews. It will include a unique reading database and reading recommendation tool, Find A Read, which is searchable by reading level. Find out more about delivering the programme here.

“We know that to be a reader is really important to life chances and quality.  We also know that reading for pleasure is one of the best ways to build reading skills and confidence which is why Reading Ahead works. We’re therefore delighted to be launching our new Reading Ahead digital platform using the proven power of reading to help tackle poor literacy and build a nation of readers.” – Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency

The programme is supported by The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads programme that commissions short books by bestselling authors specifically written to be easy to read and engage new audiences. Six new Quick Reads will be published on 27 May 2021. Reading Ahead ambassador Peter James wrote a Quick Read in 2014 and has another being published in May:

“I’ll never forget having a conversation with a lady who had read The Perfect Murder (Quick Reads, 2014). Before participating in the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme, she had only been able to read children’s books and was too embarrassed to read in public – for example on the bus or in a library. She was so thrilled to have reached a level where she could read books for adults… A love of books is a joy everyone deserves, both for themselves but also so they can set a good example for their children and grandchildren.” – Peter James, Reading Ahead ambassador

In addition to the digital platform, Reading Ahead will continue to take place with physical, printed resources to ensure everyone can take part. This is particularly important for those who take part in prison (over 9,000 people in 2018/19). The Reading Ahead in prison programme is supported by Give A Book who provide free dictionaries to those who complete the challenge. Along with a Reading Ahead certificate, this incentive is extremely valuable for engaging new readers and rewarding their achievement on completion.

“This put me on to reading rather than TV. It gave me something to work towards and also something to be proud of completing.” – Gareth, HMP Channings Wood

Reading Ahead 2021 launches on 1 February. Find out more at readingagency.org.uk and readingahead.org.uk (from 1 February).

Digital Resources for Lockdown

We have pulled together some fantastic resources for Children and Young People, Adults and Teachers to support you during Lockdown.

Children and Young People

Toolkit for online events
As events continue to move to online formats, we have created a toolkit to support libraries and other organisations to host their own author Q&As, panel discussions and readings.

Brilliant books by black authors and illustrators – Booklist
Children’s and Young People booklist – Brilliant books by black authors and illustrators available here.

How to run a virtual reading group with children and young people
Are you wondering how your reading group can continue to meet, even while you’re social distancing? With restricted access to public and school libraries many children and families at home are looking for activities to keep children entertained. We know that books are so important to provide comfort, solace and escapism as well as fun.

Virtual reading groups can help children with their confidence through talking about books, and to encourage them to read more widely. In this resource we share some suggestions on how you can still run a regular reading group with the children and young people you work with virtually.

January 2021 Children’s and Young People booklist – Something New
As we enter a new year and find ourselves in lockdown, we wanted the first booklist of the year for children and young people to focus on books that we hope will inspire them to learn a new skill, support them during this hard time or have characters who they can escape into an adventure with. We hope there is something for everyone to enjoy. You can find all of our recent booklists for children and young people here.

Chatterbooks resources for children 5 – 12
We have hundreds of brilliant, free resources to download from our Chatterbooks resources page. This month there are digital packs for Storytime and Rhymetime, Gender Swapped Fairy Tales lesson plans, Teachers’ Notes about The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain and a spooktacular digital pack of videos and discussion points for the new YA horror, The Witching Stone.

Reading Well for Children
Reading Well for children provides quality-assured information, stories and advice to support children’s mental health and wellbeing. Books have been chosen and recommended by leading health professionals and co-produced with children and families.

The booklist is targeted at children in Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11), but includes titles aimed at a wide range of reading levels to support less confident readers, and to encourage children to read together with their siblings and carers.

The books are available to borrow from your local library. Selected titles are also available to borrow as e-books and audiobooks. Visit your local library website to find out how to join the library and access books electronically.

Browse the books on the list here or download a full overview of the titles here.

Reading Well – Young people’s mental health
Reading Well for young people (named Shelf Help) recommends expert endorsed books about mental health, providing 13 to 18 year olds with advice and information about issues like anxiety, stress and OCD, and difficult experiences like bullying and exams. Find out more here. The books have all been recommended by young people and health professionals and are available to borrow for free from public libraries.

Winter Mini Challenge
The Reading Agency’s Winter Mini Challenge has been extended to the 19th February! Users will be able to continue using the website and adding books to their profile (even if they’ve already read three books and completed the Challenge) – and look out for new activities in the coming weeks too! You can sign up to the Challenge at www.wintermini.org.uk where you’ll find lots more information on this year’s theme – Everyone Is A Hero and our partner Knights Of have created a booklist which can be found here and are listed in age categories.

Reading Hack resources for young people
You can find our resources aimed at young people here.

Roald and Beatrix activity pack
Available to download here.

Adults

Resources for adults and reading groups
We have hundreds of resources on discussion guides, articles from authors and more for adults and reading groups to enjoy on our Reading Groups for Everyone resources page.

Why don’t you shadow one of the Book Prizes this lockdown?
Why not find out more about book prizes such as the Booker Prize with our Readers’ Guides.

Reading Groups for Everyone
Being part of a reading group is a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends, or meet new people, while discovering new books. On readinggroups.org you can register your group or find one to join, read the latest book news and access exclusive offers from publishers to receive books for your group. There are also lots of recommendations to help you choose your next read.

Reading Friends Stay Connected Resources

Creative Writing Guide from Kerry Hudson

Teachers

Find a Read page from Teachers’ Reading Challenge

Have you visited our TES page?

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Register for The Reading Agency’s next Winter Webinar event: A Night with Knights Of

The Reading Agency is delighted to invite you to the next event in our Winter Webinar online events series: A Night with Knights Of. Join us and publisher of diverse and inclusive books for children, Knights Of, for an evening of discussions with a panel of their award-winning, boundary-breaking children’s authors.

Members of the Knights Of publishing team will appear in conversation with a panel of their most exciting authors, who will talk about their work and the landscape of children’s publishing, before opening the floor to audience questions. See below the authors confirmed so far, with more to follow shortly!

SO. LAST YEAR: 2020 Waterstone’s Children’s Prize Winner Sharna Jackson & Knights Of Co-Founder, David Stevens

THE BOOK OF 2020: Debut author Elle McNicoll sharing some highlights of her year with Knights Of Editorial Director, Eishar Brar

About Knights Of

Knights Of is an independent publisher of books for children, born out of a passion for children’s publishing and a desire to do something differently, to move away from the status quo and commit to facing some of the problems in the industry, independently. As an inclusive publisher, Knights Of makes books for everyone, by everyone. It aims to change the lack of diversity not just among books being published and their authors, but also in the publishing industry itself, by making commercial children’s books that have been edited, produced, designed, marketed and publicised by as many people, from as many different backgrounds as possible. Find out more at www.knightsof.media.

Knights Of are also The Reading Agency’s publisher partner for the Winter Mini Challenge 2020. The Winter Mini Challenge, which runs until 15 January 2021, is a reading challenge for children to take part in over the school holidays, this year with the theme ‘Everyone is a Hero’. Find out more at www.wintermini.org.uk

About the event

Running time: 60 mins

Click here to register your free ticket

This event will take place via Zoom Webinar. Once you have registered for this event you will receive a confirmation email containing your link to join. Please note, you will not be able to join before 7pm on Wednesday 20 January 2021.

There will be an opportunity for audience questions on the night, but if you have a question for Knights Of or any of the authors that you would like to submit in advance, please email it to [email protected]

Get Involved

@readingagency | @_KnightsOf | #ANightWithKnightsOf | #ProvenPowerofReading

The Reading Agency

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