We are delighted to announce that we have enlisted the support of bestselling author Martina Cole who will champion the 2014 Six Book Challenge.
Launched in 2008, the Six Book Challenge is being increasingly recognised as a key intervention using reading for pleasure to help tackle the UK's continuing skills deficit. Latest Government figures show that 14.8 million people of working age in England alone would not gain an A*- C grade at GCSE and 5.1 million of these are still at or below the literacy level expected of an 11 year old. But ninety per cent of Six Book Challenge survey respondents say that they are more confident about reading after taking part in the challenge.
The scheme has grown five fold over the past six years with a record breaking 35,000 people taking part in 2013 via public libraries, colleges, prisons and workplaces.
With new materials for the 2014 Six Book Challenge available to order now, Martina is leading the Challenge into what looks set to be a seventh record-breaking year. She will be meeting Six Book Challenge participants at events around the UK in 2014 and all completers will receive a certificate signed by Martina in her role as Challenge ambassador.
Martina says: "I really wanted to become an ambassador for The Reading Agency because reading is such a big part of my life. The wonderful thing about the Six Book Challenge is that people who don't normally read, or who think that reading isn't their bag, are encouraged to pick up a book. When you read a book you have to picture it all in your own mind. No one tells you what you're seeing or what you should be feeling. That's the secret of reading - it's such a personal thing."
Life changing experiences
Linda Shaw, 61, from Huddersfield had spent a lifetime 'covering up' for her lack of confidence in her reading and writing, having left school with no qualifications. So when she signed up to do a computer course with the WEA in Huddersfield, and a tutor also signed her up for English classes where the Six Book Challenge was being run with support from Kirklees Libraries, she was pretty reluctant at first. But after taking part in the 2013 Six Book Challenge Linda says: "I feel like I have got through a barrier. Now when I read a book, I can concentrate. I owe a lot to my tutor. Reading has given me something to focus on, and I really enjoy it."
This year we will again be offering a national prize draw for completers - read about the individual 2013 prize winners and the 58 organisations which have won an award for attaining a high number of completers. Northampton College lead the field in 2013 with 283 completers.
"We are pleased that so many students took part in the Challenge this year," says John Bexson, deputy principal of Northampton College. "As part of preparation for GCSE English we encouraged students to engage in the project and many did. We are now delighted to see a 12% increase in our A* - C grades in English results; surely proof that participation in the Six Book Challenge really can help to develop skills as well as enjoyment."
New website for 2014
We are currently developing a new website for 2014 Six Book Challenge participants with mobile company Three. This will allow them to enrich their experience of the Challenge by creating an online profile, logging, rating and reviewing what they read and searching for their next read in our unique Find a Read database for less confident readers.
Hugh Davies, corporate affairs director at Three, says: "We believe the internet can play a massive role in breaking down any number of social barriers and it is great to see it being used to encourage people to read more, share recommendations and hopefully unearth their new favourite book."
The website will be live at readingagency.org.uk/sixbookchallenge from November 2013.
Welcoming Martina Cole
"Organisations are making the Six Book Challenge work for them," says Genevieve Clarke. "We're really pleased to have Martina Cole on board plus fabulous support from partners such as Three as we take the scheme to even more people who will benefit from it."
Martina Cole is the acknowledged queen of crime drama. Her most recent novel, The Life, was a No. 1 bestseller in hardback and paperback and is one in a long line of similarly successful novels. Several of Martina's novels have been adapted for the screen, most recently The Take and The Runaway which were shown on Sky One to remarkable reviews. In addition, Two Women and The Graft have been adapted for the stage; both were highly acclaimed when performed at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which also staged Dangerous Lady in 2012, celebrating 20 years since Martina's debut novel was published. Martina continues to smash sales records with each of her books, which have sold in excess of 11 million copies in total. In 2011 Martina surpassed the £50 million sales mark since records began and was the first British female novelist for adult audiences to achieve this. October 2013 sees the publication of Revenge, her 20th novel.
Also continuing to give their valued support to the Six Book Challenge are best-selling authors and previous ambassadors Andy McNab and Adele Parks. Andy says: "This scheme is making a big difference. I'm proud to be associated with it and I will continue supporting the work of The Reading Agency in any way that I can."
Organisations planning to run the Six Book Challenge in 2014 can now order materials from our shop and find guidance and templates on our resources page.
Individuals who would like to take part in the 2014 Six Book Challenge can contact Genevieve.Clarke@readingagency.org.uk from December onwards and we'll put you in touch with an organisation in your area who is running it.
Find out more about Martina Cole and read Linda Shaw's full case study about how taking the Six Book Challenge gave her a new focus in life.