Ya Ching Darnell works at Merseytravel, a public transport organisation in Liverpool, as well as being a union representative.
Since becoming involved with Reading Ahead 10 years ago, she has been a strong advocate for workplace skills development schemes. Reading Ahead involves participants picking six different books to get them into reading. "I would have colleagues coming up to me who were interested in the programme. They would ask if it meant having to read War and Peace," she recalls. "I'd say no! It's about picking whatever's suitable for you and what you would enjoy reading."
First steps with Quick Reads
Ya Ching also got involved with Quick Reads, our programme which sees well-known authors producing short books designed to make reading more accessible for those daunted by the thought of committing too much time to reading, or lacking confidence in their reading skills. "Quick Reads is quite good for people to just get started with," Ya Ching explains. "It can be for people who drop out of reading, it can get them back into reading again." Ya Ching also promotes Quick Reads books as great companions for work commutes. "It can just be 20 minutes on a bus journey, but they can read a whole book!" She says. She found these shorter books a crucial introduction to reading in English. "I think the first book I finished was a Quick Reads, then I challenged myself to go on to read bigger books."
Scaling language barriers with Reading Ahead
Ya Ching greatly appreciates the opportunities our reading programmes provided. Before she discovered Reading Ahead she worked part time as a cleaner and was struggling with learning English as a new language. "I wanted to improve my English to help with work. I wanted to build my confidence but the language was a big barrier," she recalls. "Trying to communicate, or express yourself, it gets frustrating. You want people to understand, and you want to understand people. My self-esteem suffered from this language barrier."
But our schemes acted as a springboard for Ya Ching, helping build her confidence and develop new skills in the workplace. "I really liked how they were promoting reading for pleasure, not pressure," she explains. "It all helped with my career development because after I'd learnt these new skills, I was given more opportunities."
Reading in the workplace
Ya Ching has been an advocate for bringing reading-based initiatives into the workplace. She set up a Bookswap by the printer in the office for people to browse through and take books. She also established a book club with her colleagues, even inviting the authors of the books they've read to speak to the club. "In our office we now have people talking about books and bringing books in to share with others," she explains.
Ya Ching values reading as a way to help others improve their confidence and skills. While continuing to promote Quick Reads, she also helps run the Summer Reading Challenge with the local library, encouraging children to read during the school holidays. "When it comes to the reading, don't give yourself high expectations," she says. "It can be small, achievable steps. Just keep trying."
If you'd like to take part in Reading Ahead or run it in your organisation, get in touch to find out more.
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