Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge.
Since 2007, librarian Ralph Winkler has been hosting book discussion sessions and running the Six Book Challenge with ESOL and literacy classes at Community Education Lewisham. His current class has 14 members, who recently got together for a book discussion session at Deptford Lounge in southeast London to read and review one of this year's popular Quick Reads, The Escape by Lynda La Plante.
Quick Reads books are designed to entertain as well as help emergent readers and they are the most popular titles read by people taking part in the Six Book Challenge. We support the initiative as part of our work with libraries, colleges, prisons, workplaces and outreach projects to bring the benefits and pleasure of reading to everyone.
"To be part of this journey with students is a real privilege"
The group thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the book choice was a great success.
Ralph commented, "It was thrilling to listen to learners who are beginning their reading journeys speak with passion and interest about the book. To be part of this journey with students is a real privilege."
Peter Rowley is the group's tutor and he was interested to watch how Ralph facilitated the group's discussion. Not only had most of the class read The Escape but they had understood the plot and the themes thoroughly. "It was fantastic to hear members of the group speak so passionately about the issues of society, imprisonment, law, justice and compassion. I am really looking forward to the next Quick Reads discussion session," he remarked.
The learners in the group are now beginning their second Six Book Challenge and have developed very quickly into confident readers who are now better able to articulate their own opinions and ideas.
Who are the readers?
Adijatu is 32, originally from Nigeria, and has lived in the UK for 13½ years; she joined the class in September 2014. Reading for herself has not only made her more confident when reading with her children, but has also helped her to read letters and forms too because, she said: "I am more confident now. Before I used to put things like this to one side because I thought they would be hard for me to read. Now I am starting to feel more confident about reading in general and I now read my post straight away."
The Escape was actually the first book Adijatu has read for pleasure, in English. "It was great, although it was very sad too. I actually cried on the bus reading it. I am an emotional person! When Barry felt like it was his fault that Colin couldn't speak was when I started to cry. It wasn't Barry's fault, he was not to blame. A lady sitting beside me asked me if I was OK. My son said: 'Mum, why are you crying, it's only a book!' It was such a great book."
Adijatu found the book discussion very useful: "I lack confidence so I found that the group session was helpful to me. When other people are talking about the book too, it makes it easier for me to get involved. I can't see how this could have happened without the librarian coming to work with us and our tutor. They have been very supportive."
"Stronger readers can inspire less confident readers to have a go"
Now in his second year in the class, Arthur was brought up in southeast London and completed the Six Book Challenge last year when he read Kung Fu Trip by Benjamin Zephaniah and Hello Mum by Bernardine Evaristo, which he really enjoyed. He has gone on to read several Andy McNab books and is currently reading David Jason's autobiography.
Arthur said: "Reading these books has given me the confidence to read more. I don't think I would have attempted reading a book like this if I hadn't been involved in the Six Book Challenge last year.
"I think reading group sessions like the one we had today are great. I've never had this experience before where everyone gets together and talks about the same book. It can get quite heated sometimes! Everyone knows something different about the book so you might get to hear about things you missed yourself while you were reading it. Also, some group members who might be stronger readers can inspire less confident readers to have a go by encouraging and supporting them. I am looking forward to reading more and being involved in another book discussion like the one we had today."
And what did the readers think about The Escape?
"Full of emotional content. I couldn't put it down. I read it in one day even though I don't read books normally. It gives you a good insight into prison life". Terry
"The book was fantastic, it felt like it was happening all around me. It was like a radio play. You could feel like the action was taking place there and then, like it was happening before your very eyes. I walked right past my bus stop while I was reading and had to turn back!" Adijatu
"We as a society are failing people if people like Barry want to stay in prison." Terry
"They are shown to be brutal. They also can get away with anything. That's just the way it is in prison. It's changed now and that kind of thing doesn't go on much anymore." Arthur and Paul
"It's a great story that starts in adversity and ends in positively for the two main characters. It tells you a lot about what prison life is like. She has done her research well. I would also recommend the book Widows by Lynda LaPlante, it is very good." Arthur
"I would like my friends to read the book to enjoy how Barry Marsden helps Colin Burrows to escape from the prison." Frances
"I would recommend the book to others because it was 'unputdownable'. I read it all the way through and thoroughly enjoyed it!" Terry
Find out more about Reading Ahead
Order materials to run Reading Ahead at your organisation.