After a year's break we are thrilled to announce that the dictionaries are back! All prisons taking part in Reading Ahead 2021 can apply for free dictionaries to award to completers alongside the certificate. If you haven't started Reading Ahead 2021 yet, take a look at our new materials.
Since 2013, the charity Give a Book has worked with The Reading Agency to provide free dictionaries for people completing Reading Ahead in prisons. From 2015, the contribution from Give a Book expanded to include a spelling guide and then a writing guide for those who had already received a dictionary. By July 2019, more than 40,000 dictionaries and spelling/writing guides had been provided for prisoners by Give a Book. Their generosity has incentivised people in prison to take part in Reading Ahead.
In 2018/19 over 9,000 people took part in Reading Ahead in prisons with almost every prison in the UK taking part. Reading Ahead invites participants to choose six reads (they don't have to be books!) read, rate and review them in a reading diary. Completers are awarded with a certificate and many prisons hold award ceremonies to celebrate this achievement. The programme results in improves reading skills, confidence and communication. Find out more about Reading Ahead in prisons here.
The overarching importance of dictionaries in a prison setting
Unlike other participating organisations such as public libraries, a prison's participants will have no access to the internet and thus no access to spell check or thesauruses. In this environment a dictionary can open literary doors, improving letter writing and overall comprehension.
"The free dictionaries are hugely welcomed by all as without the benefit of "google" dictionary the ladies want to write letters and spell correctly in correspondence to their loved ones and/or legal representatives." (HMP Downview, 2018-19)
The Reading Ahead 2018/19 evaluation survey saw almost 100% of Reading Ahead in prisons co-ordinators selecting the dictionaries as the most useful incentive for encouraging people to complete Reading Ahead.
Nearly half (46%) of people who have entered prison since August 2014 have low literacy skills, compared to 15% of the general population. Prison staff regularly report the vital importance that the free dictionaries can have for educational achievement:
"They are a good incentive and also do really help those learning written English. Men often seem chuffed to get a dictionary." (Emma Bach, Prison Librarian, Lewes, 2019)
"For the Guys at this prison, it is very useful as they are an older population who have report that they have not looked at English or a dictionary since leaving school many years prior. It is interesting the conversations we have about the new words that are now within daily language." (Amanda Spencer, Functional Skills English Tutor, HMP Verne, 2019)
"These resources are invaluable to support our residents' learning and motivation to read." (Susan Cross, Library Services Coordinator, HMP Addiewell, 2019)
To apply for free dictionaries for your prison, please fill out this survey .