(Martina Cole with Six Book Challenge completers at Tesco Watford Extra. Photo: Usdaw/In-Press Photography)
Our Ambassador and bestselling author Martina Cole is busy this Learning at Work Week (19 to 25 May) visiting workplaces around the country to promote the Six Book Challenge.
On 19 May she visited the Tesco Watford Extra store where the Challenge has been running since January 2014 through a partnership between Usdaw union learning representatives and management. So far 20 staff have completed the Six Book Challenge and more are hoping to finish over the next few weeks. Martina gave out certificates to completers and signed books.
The following day Martina went to Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust in Edgbaston to celebrate the Six Book Challenge. She met and talked with patients and staff doing the Six Book Challenge as well as staff from University Hospital Birmingham.
Martina's tour continued on 21 May with a visit to Merseyrail's Liverpool Central Station on Wednesday 21 May. She met staff, passengers and union learning representatives to celebrate the Six Book Challenge. This is the second year the Challenge has run at Merseyrail by union learning representatives from RMT, ASLEF, and TSSA in partnership with Merseyrail management.
(Photo: Martina with a Challenge completer. Credit: Merseyrail)
The busy week finished with a visit to HMP-YOI New Hall near Wakefield on 22 May. The Six Book Challenge has been running at New Hall since 2011, led by librarian Anne Turner and her colleagues working with other departments in the prison. So far 141 prisoners at New Hall have completed the Challenge. Martina signed books in the library and handed out certificates to female completers.
Meeting new faces
Martina says: "Reading is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I love spreading the word about the Six Book Challenge and I'm particularly pleased to be meeting new faces at workplaces where it is run."
Genevieve Clarke, our adult literacy specialist, said: "It's wonderful to have such strong support from Martina. We have clear evidence that the Six Book Challenge is having a beneficial impact on people's skills and helping them to develop a new reading habit. It's the icing on the cake for participants to meet a top author who talks with such enthusiasm about their own love of reading."
Reaction from staff
"The Six Book Challenge is an excellent way to get people reading and back into learning and is always popular with our members," says Dave McCrossen, divisional officer for Usdaw's eastern division. "It works for all different levels and is a great way to get parents reading with their kids. Campaigns are most successful when our union learning representatives work in partnership with employers and local libraries, as happens at the Tesco Watford Extra store. We are always keen to promote and support it wherever we can." (Picture: Martina handing over certificate to a Six Book Challenge completer. Photo by Usdaw/In-Press Photography.)
Helene Gorring, head of library services at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are delighted to have Martina Cole come and visit us as part of the Six Book Challenge. The Challenge has been a great initiative for the library to get involved with, and one which has enthused staff from a wide variety of job roles. We are very pleased to have been able to extend the Six Book Challenge to our service users this year, with a mixture of inpatient and community-based reading groups taking part".
Maarten Spaargen, managing director of Merseyrail, says: "The Six Book Challenge is a cracking initiative, which we're thrilled to be involved with. I'm sure that our customers will enjoy meeting Martina Cole at Liverpool Central Station, and I'd urge anyone to call by the stand and the concourse and learn more learn more about the Challenge."
New Hall Governor Diane Pellew says: "I am really pleased Martina took the time out of her busy schedule to visit the women and staff members in New Hall. I believe reading helps to rehabilitate women, giving them self confidence and increased self esteem."
Our Ambassador Andy McNab has also been promoting the Six Book Challenge during Adult Learner's Week in Scotland (17 to 23 May). On 21 May he visited Edinburgh's Oxgangs Library to join adult and young adult readers for a 'Brunch and a Blether' event. He met less confident readers and shared his inspirational story on how he built up his literacy, a love of books, and started writing bestsellers. He also visited Saughton Prison in Edinburgh where the Challenge is taking place.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh's Culture and Sport Convener, said: "Edinburgh Libraries attract a number of high profile and influential authors throughout the year and we're delighted to present a fantastic visit from influential author Andy McNab. Libraries are not just places to borrow books - they are community hubs where people can come to be inspired and learn more about reading, and it is fantastic that Andy is showing such strong support for learner readers in Edinburgh."
Andy McNab, said: "We all want to have the best chances in life but reading and writing with confidence are key to this. The Six Book Challenge is a fantastic way for people at work to improve their skills at the same time as enjoying reading and talking about it with their colleagues and friends."
Workplaces interested in taking part in the Six Book Challenge can read more about the programme or contact Genevieve.Clarke@readingagency.org.uk for more information.
Workplaces already running the scheme can take a look at our top tips for running the Challenge. Remember to fill in your survey and evaluation forms by 7 July to be eligible for an award.