Over 12,000 young people and adults took part in Reading Ahead 2018/19 through their college or learning provider. Most colleges promote the programme in the college library with staff linking to tutors running courses ranging from Supported Learning to pre-GCSE, ESOL to bricklaying and media studies.
Lockdown over the past year has made delivery difficult with creative approaches required to run the programme with students from home. However, it is more important now than ever that less confident readers are supported to build their confidence and skills and even when operating remotely college libraries are vital to support students' learning and wellbeing.
Reading Ahead 2021 launched on 1 February and you can start running the programme at any time so it's never too late to get involved! We've put together some top tips and you can download our toolkit for running Reading Ahead 2021.
1. The library and reading materials
Your readers are likely to vary in reading level so make sure you're prepared with a wide range of engaging reading materials. Ensure that staff and librarians are confident giving recommendations at the right reading level for your participants. Take a look at our list of publishers with books for emergent readers as well as Quick Reads.
Make the library the centre of activity and use the programme to raise the profile of the library across the college. Weave the challenge into students' library induction and introduce them to library staff who can help them find relevant books.
If the college or library are closed at the moment think about how you can get books and other reading materials to students digitally or direct them to the 'request and deliver' service at their local public library. We have posters and leaflets for publicising the programme and guiding less confident readers in choosing something to read.
If the library is open, use our posters and leaflets to publicise the programme on library noticeboards, plasma screens, websites and on social media. Start an informal reading group or a regular drop-in session for participants to talk about what they are reading and swap recommendations.
Remember to sign up to the new Reading Ahead website so that you can access all the downloadable resources and Find A Read - a unique reading database searchable via reading level. We have lots of resources for engaging ESOL learners such as our booklist.
Link the programme into operational targets for the library and set targets for different library sites to introduce some competition.
Approach tutors and senior staff to inform them about Reading Ahead. Encourage senior management to write the programme into their reporting plans and talk about it to Ofsted inspectors. Get tutors to build it into their class work and tell them about the new website participants.
Make use of our advocacy leaflet and evaluation report.
Organisations who support over 50 participants to complete the programme receive an organisation certificate and make it onto our roll of honour. Share these goals and successes with senior staff to gain their support in spreading the word and ensuring resources are available.
Jack Carney, principal of The Manchester College, said:
"The biggest impact has been for individual learners. We have seen students going from being quite shy to being confident and good with language, expanding their thinking and their perspective on life."
Many tutors weave the challenge into their course delivery. Ask staff to take part so that students know it's a college wide activity and award everyone together at the end.
3. Engagement & momentum
Keeping up momentum is critical. You may want to introduce a different theme or initiative for each month to spark interest. Use national events such as World Book Night and Adult Learners' Week. Small incentives often help to get students back to the library as do ways of showing off their reviews and recommendations.
Remember that all reading can be included so poems, newspapers, recipes, reading stories to children - all count! Word of mouth is the best endorsement so do get participants and previous completers to share their experience. We have created posters to encourage participants to share their reading with each other.
Go into classrooms (restrictions permitting) and use online platforms and email to encourage discussion about reading and the challenge.
4. Incentives and celebrating success
Make sure everyone knows what prizes you are offering - we offer branded incentive items Quick Reads, you can supplement these with items that will engage your students. You might want to reward people for other aspects such as 'first completer', 'most detailed diary' or 'best Challenge advocate'.
Celebrate with an awards ceremony (hopefully in-person in June!). This is a chance to link with staff who aren't already involved and thank those that are. Invite a local celebrity - the mayor, an author, a sports star - and aim to get some press coverage. Involve catering students to provide the food and music and drama students to lay on entertainment.
Encourage completers to ask family and friends. Make a film of the event and take photos to get everyone excited about the next year of the programme.
Visit our Shop to order print and digital core materials and incentives.
Take a look at our impact case studies.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org