(Martin receiving his Six Book Challenge certificate from author Tom Palmer)
Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge.
Martin Dixon, 38, has worked at Sainsbury's Distribution Centre in St Helens for 15 years. 150 employees have taken the Six Book Challenge at the Centre since 2012 with support from Usdaw/Unite union learning representatives. To help us mark Learning At Work Week 2014 (19-25 May), Martin talked to us about doing the Challenge at work.
No time for reading
I was the boy who was always outdoors playing football. I was a typical lad - when I wasn't in school I'd be off playing football and I'd only come home for my tea. I had football magazines, but other than that I didn't want to sit down and read.
Once I left school, work took over and I really let reading drop. My wife is an avid reader - she loves chick lits - and seeing her reading, for example sitting on the beach on holiday, did start to get me interested.
Then we started a family, and there's nothing like having a baby for eating up any spare time you once thought you had, so reading really went on the back burner for me.
Dedicated union reps
But our union learning reps at the Distribution Centre did a really good job of promoting the Six Book Challenge with posters, information and books in the union learning centre.
Mind you, with a warehouse full of men it can take a dedicated person, like our Usdaw union learning rep Kevin Callow, to get the message across!
When I first heard about the Challenge I thought, "I'm never going to get the time to read six books". I thought it meant big books that'd mean sitting down for two or three hours a night to get through. But Kevin explained that comics and magazines can all count as one of your six reads. Most importantly for me, he said that reading with your kids, for example reading them a bedtime story, also counts. It made me feel much more relaxed about giving the Challenge a go.
Reading with my daughters
Reading with my children - I have two daughters aged four and one - was something I'd felt was really important; for them to see me reading with them. My four year old loves all sorts of stories, and she loves reading with my wife and me. She loves the interaction - you can see reading taking her to imaginative and creative places that I think are really important for children.
St Helens is a big rugby league town: and I'm a fan, so to have someone like England player Jamie Jones-Buchanan championing the Six Book Challenge was another real incentive to get involved; I think it's really good to have sports men like him as role models.
(Jamie Jones-Buchanan talking at Leeds Library. Photo by David Lindsay)
Even now I've finished the Challenge, I've kept on reading. After the kids have gone to bed, my wife and I only have an hour to ourselves before we turn in, but when we can we read in bed - it's a way of having some time to ourselves and switching off. I've got a book beside my bed that I'm reading about Manchester's Hacienda Club - I used to go and it's bringing back all sorts of memories.
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