The Reading Agency was delighted that author and explorer Levison Wood visited the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) in February to meet students taking part in our Reading Ahead programme.
Levison's visit was facilitated by the Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation. The Reading Agency works with the Foundation to promote its annual Adventure Writing Prize, for which Levison has been a judge. The deadline for this year's entries is 2 March.
His arrival was met with a spontaneous round of applause and there was a queue outside the lecture theatre where he spoke. Levison talked about his determination to become an explorer and to write about and film his adventures in order to share a greater understanding of some of the world's most remote places. He also stressed the importance of reading in his life and urged his audience - students on courses ranging from ESOL to public services - to read books, talk to people and live their dreams.
Reading Ahead invites less confident readers to pick six reads of their choice and record, rate and review them in a personal reading diary. CONEL librarian Nicky Evans has seen Reading Ahead grow at the college year on year. In 2017-18 CONEL achieved a gold award with 253 students completing Reading Ahead. This year Nicky is aiming for double gold (300 completers) and already has more than 900 students signed up.
"Levison's talk was a resounding success," says Nicky. "It was pitched at just the right level for our students, emphasising the importance of a good education and that if you cannot achieve your goals one way, think outside the box."
Levison himself valued the experience, saying: "It was my pleasure and a real privilege to talk to such enthusiastic students!"
Nicky, who liaises with tutors across the college sites in Tottenham and Enfield, says: "Reading Ahead is a really good thing for us. It raises the profile of the library. It also increases our contact with the curriculum and helps to get more tutors engaged with the library. Some of our students are quite timid about taking part but then we see them fly as reading becomes something they enjoy. It is even better when it leads to older students reading with their children.
"I am hoping that this will be our best year for Reading Ahead. We have full support from our senior management who view it as a valuable asset when delivering ESOL, Functional Skills and GCSE level English."
The Reading Agency has also benefited from two of the Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation adventure writing prize shortlisted authors (Holly Watt and J D Fennell) and judge Abir Mukherjee visiting Further Education colleges which are running Reading Ahead successfully. So far Holly has been to Bridgwater & Taunton College and Abir to City of Glasgow College. Davy Fennell will visit Chichester College in the coming months.
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