Andrew Jennison, who works as a Post and Porterage Officer at De Montfort University (DMU), has been responsible for running the Reading Agency's Six Book Challenge on campus since 2011. We're delighted with the news that he's now been honoured with a British Empire Medal which he received from the Lord Lieutenant Lady Gretton at Beaumanor Hall near Loughborough (see below).
"It is a great privilege and I feel very proud," says Andrew. "Over the last six years we have transformed people's lives not only at work but also at home with such initiatives as the Six Book Challenge and the Skills for Life courses here at DMU. We couldn't have achieved these results if we didn't have the wonderful working relationship between the Unison Lifelong Learning team and HR Training & Development. We are already putting forward a programme of events and looking forward to the DMU Six Book Challenge 2015."
Among his proudest achievements are helping a member of the DMU cleaning staff, who suffers from dyslexia with their reading, which has totally changed her life. Andrew said: "When I started the Six Book Challenge I said if I helped one person to read it has been a success. I can now say we have made a difference to several people's lives not only at work but also at home. To have a person come up to me and say "Thanks. Now I can read to my granddaughter" says it all.
Professor Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor of DMU and a Professor of English, takes part in the Six Book Challenge each year. He said: "Andrew is one of the most selfless, generous and enthusiastic people I have ever had the privilege to meet. He always goes the extra mile and never fails to cheer you up. He has dedicated an incredible amount of his spare time to promoting reading among staff at DMU and we have seen first-hand how his efforts have inspired so many people and had a positive impact on their lives. Staff and students at DMU could not be more proud that he has been recognised in this way."
Six years ago Andrew became a Unison Learning Representative and worked with the university to promote learning in the workplace, including helping run an annual Learning at Work Week. In 2011 the Unison Lifelong Learning Team with HR Training & Development decided literacy should be a major initiative. So Andrew took up the baton and ran with the idea of taking part in the Reading Agency's Six Book Challenge with help and encouragement from Union Learning Rep colleague Carol Keddie and Neil Duncan from HR Training & Development.
Andrew started by inviting less confident readers among the university cleaning staff to take part. This included people who could not read, others who were dyslexic and some for whom English was not their first language. His motivation was the fact he had been fortunate to be educated up to degree level but a formal education had passed by some of his colleagues. Andrew wanted to pass on his belief that reading could broaden the imagination and develop the mind.
Taking advantage of his role in Post and Porterage, which involves delivering and collecting items from around the campus, Andrew was able to speak to staff across the institution and encourage them to take part too.
In 2014, 173 staff and a further 37 children and grandchildren of staff members completed the Six Book Challenge, earning the university a gold award for the second year running from The Reading Agency.
What people involved in Six Book Challenge at DMU say about Andrew:
Pat O'Neill, morning cleaning supervisor for Gateway House.
"I really enjoy the Six Book Challenge. I had got out of the habit of reading and this has got me back into it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. I was so pleased with the encouragement from Andrew and also for encouraging my wife who had suffered a stroke and not read for four years. Thanks Andrew."
Yvonne Hirst, morning cleaning supervisor in Queens Building.
"I could not read two years ago and I was dyslexic. So Andrew got me "Quick Reads" (short novels). I will always continue with reading now. If it wasn't for Andrew I would not be at the stage I am now. It has helped me at work and at home."
Erica Mortimer, cleaning supervisor in the Hugh Aston building.
"I am a great supporter of the Six Book Challenge. I put out lots of Quick Reads for staff to choose from and we have our own little library. Andrew has been an amazing supporter for reading. He is the ideal person for the job."
Chandra Mistry, Post and Porterage officer.
"Andrew has worked so hard behind the scenes to make Six Book Challenge such a success. I appreciate his determination and his hard work has paid off."
Sue Collins, full-time cleaner
"I had not read a book for a good six months when Andrew came to me. I took part with my granddaughter Elle. She encouraged me and we did it together. I enjoyed it so much I am now on my ninth book. I would just like to thank Andrew for the encouragement he has given to us all."
If you'd like to run the Six Book Challenge in your workplace, see our resources page for more information and order materials for 2015 from our online Shop.
Please contact David Kendall if you would like any further information about the Six Book Challenge in workplaces.