The Six Book Challenge will be piloted for the first time by the Army thanks to a kickstart from our Ambassador Andy McNab. It is due to be trialled in the North of England, Cyprus and Germany and, if successful, opened up to the wider Army.
Andy talked about his support for the scheme at Catterick Garrison Library to a mixed audience including soldiers from the Infantry Training Centre. Later the same day he called in at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate to speak to Junior Soldiers who will also be taking part in the Challenge.
Admitting to the young soldiers that he only joined the Army as a 16-year-old in 1976 to get out of a juvenile detention centre, Andy said: "For the first three months I didn't like Army life. Then, one day, we were marched up to the Army Education Centre and into a classroom. I found myself looking at what appeared to me to be the oldest man in the world, although he was only about 42 years old. He'd joined as a soldier, got promoted and ended up being commissioned as an officer."
Andy recalled: "At one stage, the captain walked up to the window, looked out, pointed at the perimeter fence and said to the class, 'Everyone out there thinks you're thick, but you are not. You're just not educated. From today everything changes.' A week later I read my first book - one from a children's series called Janet and John. The feeling of being able to do that was fantastic. Knowledge gives you power, but you do it on your own terms."
Andy added: "I later found out that this same captain had had a reading age of just eight when he joined the Army, but education had given him a choice of what he wanted to do."
Lieutenant Colonel Jane Hunter, Commander Educational and Training Services, said: "The Army is strongly committed to improving the levels of literacy and numeracy among soldiers. It not only offers them better job prospects after they have left the Service, but enables the soldiers to do their jobs, assimilate training, and support them as the equipment they use gets increasingly more technical."
If you work in a public library, college, workplace learning centre or prison and are interested in running the Challenge visit our Six Book Challenge resources page.