Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge.
Job seeker Arthur told us how a visit to his local library in the London Borough of Lewisham was the starting point for turning around a lack of confidence in his spelling, writing and reading that had blighted his work and career prospects for decades. He did the Six Book Challenge as part of book discussion sessions and adult education classes run by Community Education Lewisham:
"You need reading wherever you go"
At school I was drawn to subjects like photography, art and drama, but I was never good at English. I avoided it like the plague, I was a terrible speller, I wasn't confident about pronouncing words properly and I was a slow writer. I struggled and was always in low English sets. When I left at 16, I had an O' level in photography, and CSEs in Maths, History and Drama and I scraped a low Grade 4 in English.
I wanted to get into photography but I had no experience. I drifted between jobs and went into delivery driving. I would see people in high positions who clearly didn't have a clue; I would think "I could do that" but my lack of confidence in my English skills always held me back: I couldn't fill out the applications or express myself properly.
You need reading wherever you go, even in practical jobs you need to be able to read instructions. I hid my lack of confidence; for example if I was working on something where you needed to follow instructions, I'd try to just guess how it was done and get round it. But you can only bluff for so long.
Vital support at the local library
When I found myself job seeking I decided to do something about improving my English. I would go to the library to use the computers to job search: one day someone from Lewisham Education was doing a promotion, and that's how I found out about the English classes I'm now doing.
The tutor is more like a friend than a teacher; he has got time for everyone and explains things, and it is not at all like being in school. We've already done some exams, and we will be taking Level 3 English exams in June.
I am a more confident now in my literacy, and I did the Six Book Challenge for the first time this year. In class we would talk about the books we had read for the Six Book Challenge: I enjoyed giving my opinions, and associating what we had read with different events in our lives. Then when I finished the Six Book Challenge and got my certificate, it felt pretty good.
Reading for pleasure and for work
It takes a lot for me to get into reading; my concentration span is not good. But now I will read, and whenever I can I like to pick up a book - I am into history so I like reading true stories, about conspiracies in particular.
I've also been reading books about gardening. I have just finished a gardening course, as I'm thinking of trying to change career into garden maintenance and design. I have now got a City and Guilds Level 2 award, and I am working towards a diploma.
When you go to adult education classes, everyone is in the same boat - there's no need to be embarrassed. We all learn at our own pace, and we all read in class, there's no one thinking badly of you or taking the mickey out of you, so go for it.
Find out more about Reading Ahead
Order materials to run Reading Ahead at your organisation.