Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge.
We've got a wide range of workplaces running the Six Book Challenge this year ranging from Transpennine Express in Manchester to supermarkets, logistics depots, hospitals, government offices and the Army. In many cases trade union learning reps (ULRs) are taking the lead, building on success in previous years.
Over 300 Usdaw members have taken part in the past year in locations such as the Argos/DHL Distribution Cenre near Wakefield, Morrisons' in Scotland, Tesco in Hastings and McVitie's in Stockport. Now they're trying to recruit more for 2013 with the publication of a leaflet for their project workers and ULRs. "The Challenge has been around since 2008 and it's grown in popularity," comments Ann Murphy, Usdaw's National Lifelong Learning Co-ordinator. "It fits in well with workplace English courses and really builds members' confidence once they get started."
Stoke-on-Trent Libraries began their partnership with Usdaw in 2011 when Julia Baldwin, the Lifelong Learning Project Worker for Usdaw North West, approached them to involve workplaces in the Six Book Challenge. Libraries met with ULRs from a DHL distribution centre, Co-Op Pharmacy and Wardles in Hanley and Meir, and visited all of the sites to promote the Challenge. At this point Stoke were already part way through the Challenge but in that first year nine people at Co-Op, Wardles and DHL joined in, completed and were invited to a celebration event to receive their certificates.
In 2012 Stoke Libraries and unions extended the Challenge to nearby Tesco and Co-op stores. There was a big increase in take-up with 66 people completing the Challenge. Community Librarian Linda Davies visited all the ULRs in the workplaces and they are planning even greater things for 2013.
The scheme is certainly reaching the right people. Steve Reynolds, 35, works as a warehouse operative and has completed the Challenge for the last two years. He failed the written exam for the police force by a short margin, and later discovered he had dyslexia whilst attending a functional skills literacy course at Stoke College. Determined not to be put off by his dyslexia, Steve signed up for the Six Book Challenge. Completing the Challenge gave him confidence and has helped him with his dyslexia, enabling him to 'picture' words by seeing them regularly. He now takes great joy in reading, both for himself, and to his two young daughters.
UNISON has also given consistent support to the Six Book Challenge in hospitals, transport companies, council offices and sites such as De Montfort University in Leicester. Last year Jacquie Olpin, UNISON ULR at Mansfield District Council in Nottinghamshire, had great success with running the scheme with a mix of staff who clearly relished the experience - see comments below.
"When I came to write up Book Six I could not believe it was the last! I had enjoyed the reading and extra thinking involved so much that I have never read six books in such a short time!" Jodi Johnstone, Risk Management Support Assistant, Environmental Health.
"I have not read since before having my children in the mid 1980s and I had kept saying to myself that I was going to start reading again. The Challenge gave me the push I needed and I have really enjoyed getting lost in other people's stories." Sandra Tindall, Customer Enquiry Assistant, Revenues.
"I've always said I don't have time to read, but in signing up for the Challenge I had to find the time! I loved it as I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading!" Sioned Dolan, Community Engagement Officer, Regeneration.
Find out more about Reading Ahead
Order materials to run Reading Ahead at your organisation.