Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge
Ann's life has, quite simply, been transformed by reading and the Six Book Challenge. Ann, 60, is a cleaner at De Montfort University, Leicester, where an impressive 702 Six Book Challenge certificates have been achieved over the past five years. She recently told us about her inspirational reading journey.
"I couldn't read or write at all"
For many years I couldn't read or write at all, and the thought of reading just terrified me.
But I wanted to move on at work; thanks to support from UNISON and the People and Organisational Development team I'd started doing a Skills For Life course. It gave me that little bit of initial confidence, and it's how I first heard about the Six Book Challenge, when Unison Learning rep Andrew Jennison came to tell us about it.
At first it was daunting. Six books? I didn't think I could even read one!
Then Andrew explained I could read anything I liked to complete the challenge, and he introduced me to the Quick Reads series of books. I was nervous, but I picked one of them, and I found that it was really good and I couldn't put it down. I was like a sponge because I just wanted to read another and another. Every time a new Quick Reads title came into our workplace library I got it out.
I was getting something from each and every book I read, and some of them I really influenced me and changed my opinions about things. For example, Street Cat Bob (by James Bowen), about a young man who'd been homeless and who finds an injured street cat. I know what it is to be homeless, and I really identified with him.
"It's given me so much confidence in daily life"
I never looked back. I've done the Six Book Challenge every year for five years now, and every time I complete it, I feel great. It gives me so much, not just the reading part, but also it helps you grow and learn - the more you read the more you want to find out. I have gone onto read bigger books, and I love meeting and talking to all the other people at work who are doing the Challenge, hearing them talking about what they are reading and how they have progressed as well.
It's given me so much confidence in daily life - over the past five years it's really brought me out of my shell. Not being able to read properly inhibits you, but once you open that door it helps you to talk to people - when they start a conversation you don't feel that you have nothing to give; you've got something to say.
I'm a totally different person now. I love reading; I could read for hours and hours - anything and everything! I've done creative writing classes at Leicester College; I was inspired by a book of short stories that Andrew gave me, and I'd love to do more.
"Don't let fear hold you back"
The last five years of my life since I started doing the Six Book Challenge have been amazing: I wish I'd got started sooner. Now I want to tell other people to give it a go. For years and years I was behind closed doors but now I am out and I am getting better and better every day. If I can do it, believe me, at my age, then honestly, anyone can do it - don't let fear hold you back, because it shouldn't.
You might find it difficult at first but once you get a good book in front of you, you will never put it down.
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