When Ataullah Omar came from Afghanistan to the UK in 2008, he had never even read a book in his native language. But he enrolled to study mechanical engineering at Northampton College which has just been given a gold award for attaining over 150 Six Book Challenge completers. Here Ataullah tells us how discovering a love of reading is opening doors for him in his new country.
I was never a reader. I used to find reading very difficult, and when I first came to college I was very shy, because I couldn't read or speak very much English; I couldn't understand what people were saying and I would often think they were talking about me.
But I told myself that I had to learn to understand, and I started to make friends. It was not easy, but I wanted to try and make something of my life. So when my tutor at college told us about the Six Book Challenge, I thought it could help me with my reading and writing in English.
It was hard at first
It did help. I started by reading story books in English, ones where I was interested in the story. It was hard at first, but I kept trying. I was always looking for a book that would interest me. There were lots of words I didn't understand at first, but after I had read them a few times if I still couldn't work out their meaning, I would go away and find out, so that next time I will know how to use the word.
I would discuss the books I read with my friends who were doing the Six Book Challenge as well, and my girlfriend also got into reading too.
Making life easier
I will definitely keep reading. I have downloaded books to read over the summer; I want to keep trying my best because I want my reading to get better and better. It will make life easier for me, the more words I can understand. I am proud, because now there are more and more things I can do for myself, like speak to the doctor or the bank.
When I finished the Six Book Challenge I was really proud of myself. I was given a special award for my achievement, and I met the mayor of Northampton at the special ceremony at the college. It has been the best time for me; I'd never had this approach in my life in my own country and I was really happy. I think now I have a good opportunity for the future in front of me.
Just read for half an hour a day
If you want to read, you can do it at any time. Just start by taking half an hour a day - just half an hour is better than not reading at all. I usually read at home in the afternoons, when I have come home from college. Choose a story book on subject you are interested in, and then tell yourself to finish the page, and then the next bit, and then the next bit until you get to the end of the story.
Reading has really opened up my eyes to new ideas, cultures and history and it's been really motivational for me. I feel a lot better in myself and I am more confident with my reading and will definitely be doing the Six Book Challenge again next year.
If you would like to take part in the Six Book Challenge contact your local public library.
Do tell us your story about being part of or running the Six Book Challenge - we'd love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Genevieve Clarke.
If you work at a public library, college, prison or work place and are interested in running the Six Book Challenge visit our resources page.