Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge.
Nick, who lives in Bolton, told us recently how getting into reading has played an important part in turning his life around and his hopes for a positive future. He did the Six Book Challenge at Bolton College, where it has been running for the past five years, with 272 completing it in 2014.
Nick, who is dyslexic, didn't like school and left without any qualifications. He began working to become a qualified panel beater and tried his hand at becoming a mechanic, but developed problems with drink and spent several years living on the streets. Things started to turn around for Nick, who stopped drinking when he went to Emmaus - the charity that helps people who were previously homeless - after calling his father to ask for help.
Support from Emmaus and Bolton College
I've had a lot of support from Emmaus. I've been with Bolton Emmaus for five years now; I live there in the community and for the last 18 months I've been the community's full-time cook.
I started going to Bolton College in September 2013 to learn to read and write properly. Two years ago I struggled to write my own name, but I just wanted to read better: I wanted to be able to write out the menus that I cook for people, and to be able to read recipes and cookery books. Being dyslexic it's been hard, but I feel like I'm making progress, and I've had lots of support at college.
I first heard about the Six Book Challenge from my tutor. I thought it would be hard but I sat down and read each day - books that my tutor had given me. I read kids' books, to make it easier for myself to get started, then I'd write down in the Six Book Challenge reading diary what the story had been about, and we'd discuss in class what we'd read, which I enjoyed.
I'd try and set aside a specific time each day to get into reading. When I was doing the Six Book Challenge I used to get all the preparation done for serving dinner each day, then I'd sit down for an hour with an Emmaus member of staff and read my books.
I'd never read a whole book before
Going to the awards ceremony at Bolton College and getting my certificate once I'd completed the Six Book Challenge felt brilliant. My mum's got my certificate now - she's put it up on the wall and she says she's really proud of me. I also gave a speech at the awards ceremony: I told everyone that I'd never read a whole book before I did the Six Book Challenge.
Now my reading and writing is coming on in leaps and bounds. You use reading and writing everywhere in day to day life, and I'd like to be able to use the skills I've learned to be able to do more of the simple things in life that most people can take for granted. Like writing a cheque. Or being able to read the instructions on games I play instead of just guessing. And in the past it's been frustrating when I've received letters that I haven't been able to read: that's why I'd never been able to hold down a flat - I hadn't been able to read or understand bills.
I do drama, and it has helped with reading scripts, and it has also helped me to have better conversations on Skype with my daughter. So I'll definitely be going back to Bolton College to do more studying. If you are thinking of signing up for the Six Book Challenge I'd say just go for it and get it sorted - don't be shy!
Find out more about Reading Ahead
Order materials to run Reading Ahead at your organisation.