(Above: Six Book Challenge completer Chris Underwood and Livewire Warrington librarian Janet Puzylo with England international and Leeds Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan)
A rugby league fan who has recently discovered the life-changing power of reading thanks to the Six Book Challenge was rewarded with an extra-special trip to the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC2013) final between New Zealand and Australia at Old Trafford on 30 November.
Chris Underwood, from Wigan, stepped out on to the pitch at Old Trafford at half-time to receive his special Six Book Challenge completer's certificate from England international and Leeds Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who is a Six Book Challenge champion.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan said: "It's been an honour to be associated with this project. I know that it has had an extremely positive effect on the literacy and lives of adults and young people who love rugby league, and I'm pleased to have played a part in the process."
Special partnership with RLWC2013
The special presentation ceremony served as a final celebration for our year-long partnership with RLWC2013 to deliver the Six Book Challenge and encourage less confident readers in areas typically populated by rugby league fans. Many organisations, such as public library services, workplaces and trade unions, have used our specially branded Six Book Challenge materials to engage new readers.
Chris Underwood, 45, was one of several Six Book Challenge completers whose reading achievements were rewarded with a ticket for the RLWC2013 final. A father of two girls, he is a stock clerk at Sainsbury's Distribution Centre at Haydock on Merseyside where he has worked for 17 years.
The Six Book Challenge was undertaken by 173 employees at the site with the support of Usdaw and Unite union learning reps. Usdaw rep Kevin Callow, who was also at the Old Trafford final, said: "The Six Book Challenge Rugby League theme was a great selling-point with so many people from Wigan and St Helens which have big Rugby League backgrounds. It's definitely opened the door to other things and got them into the learning centre." (Above: Kevin Callow and Chris Underwood)
"Before signing up at work to do the Six Book Challenge I'd never really been interested in reading; the last time I'd read a book was at school," admits Chris Underwood. "But I began by reading sports autobiographies - Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott and Gazza - and I found I enjoyed them. I've kept on reading since I finished the Challenge and now I'm reading fiction too; I find it relaxes me at the end of a busy day."
"Having engaged hearts and minds during RLWC2013 it's great to see these celebrations take place on our stage," said RLWC2013 marketing manager, Mark Foster. "We're inspired and motivated local people in the community to improve their skills under the wing of Rugby League."
Joining Chris Underwood at the stadium was development librarian Janet Puzylo. She works for Livewire Warrington, which provides leisure facilities including public libraries in the Warrington area; along with colleagues she has helped 82 people to complete the 2013 Six Book Challenge and was rewarded by receiving a bronze award on their behalf from Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
Janet said: "It's been a terrific incentive to be able to link the Six Book Challenge to RLWC2013. We're lucky to be able to work with a range of wonderful partners to support all the adults who are working so hard to improve their skills." (Above: Janet Puzylo)
Also at the final to celebrate their success with the Six Book Challenge were representatives from public library services in East Riding, Kirklees, Manchester and Wigan; trade unions Usdaw, Unite and the RMT; and workplaces Transpennine Express, Northern Rail and Sainsbury's Distribution Centre at Haydock.
"It's been very exciting to work with Jamie Jones-Buchanan and RLWC2013 on a special Six Book Challenge this year," adds Genevieve Clarke, who leads our adult literacy work. "It's added extra energy and helped us reach new audiences. As we start the Six Book Challenge for 2014 we know we'll be able to build on this to take the scheme to even more people."
If you would like to take part in the 2014 Six Book Challenge contact Genevieve.Clarke@readingagency.org.uk and we'll put you in touch with an organisation in your area who is running it.
Visit the website for Six Book Challenge participants at readingagency.org.uk/sixbookchallenge.
Organisations planning to run the Six Book Challenge in 2014 can order materials from our shop and find guidance and templates on our resources page.