Our new One Quick Read One Prison project has started getting prisoners and staff reading as part of the Six Book Challenge.
Working with Quick Reads, we gave 2550 copies of the six Quick Reads 2013 titles to the seven prisons taking part, so that each one can get prisoners and staff all reading, reviewing and talking about the same book.
Nick Walmsley, regimes manager at HMP Pentonville in London, says: "Seven out of ten prisoners say they have a learning or literacy problem. We believe in the Six Book Challenge because we've seen it have a big impact at Pentonville. Getting prisoners literate will reduce re-offending rates because it gives them more opportunities in life." (Nick is seen here with a colleague from HMP Pentonville receiving their gold award from Ambassador Adele Parks in 2012 for achieving over 150 Six Book Challenge completers)
Best-selling writer, former SAS soldier and Reading Agency Ambassador Andy McNab visited HMP/YOI Portland in Dorset on 24 May to celebrate the distribution of 500 copies of his Quick Read title Today Everything Changes. It tells Andy's own literacy journey from borstal to top author via the army, which he joined at 17 with the reading age of an 11 year old. He also visited HMP/YOI Brinsford in Staffordshire (pictured with library staff above) and HMYOI Reading to support their use of the Six Book Challenge.
Andy says: "It's all about giving these lads confidence to take out of prison at the end of their sentence. Confidence that they can walk into a library, bank or post office, confidence that they can fill in forms and ultimately, confidence to take control of their lives and hopefully not re-offend. It isn't about mollycoddling criminals or giving them an easy ride, it's about changing things for them so that we all, as a society, benefit when they come out."
One Six Book Challenge participant at HMP/YOI Portland wrote in his reading diary: "Reading this book made me think about life; made me think why do I go round hitting people when there ain't a reason for it? It must just be pain. But I've calmed down a lot, I need to stop fighting".
Our adult literacy programme manager, Genevieve Clarke, says: "Use of the Six Book Challenge in prisons is growing all the time as prison library staff and education tutors realise its potential for building confidence, skills and employability."
Our work in prisons is supported with funding from the City of London Corporation's charity City Bridge Trust and the Bromley Trust.
The seven prisons taking part in One Quick Read One Prison are:
- HMYOI Portland (young offenders), reading Today Everything Changes by Andy McNab
- HMYOC Hydebank near Belfast (young offenders and women), reading Doctor Who: The Silurian Gift by Mike Tucker
- HMP Styal, Cheshire (women), reading A Sea Change by Veronica Henry
- HMP Pentonville (men), reading Wrong Time, Wrong Place by Simon Kernick
- HMP Holloway (women), reading Love is Blind by Kathy Lette
- HMP East Sutton Park (women) and HMP Elmley (men) in Kent, both reading A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters, based on a true crime set in Kent.
If you would like to run the Six Book Challenge in your own organisation please see our resources page.