Over 9,000 people in prison took part in Reading Ahead in 2018/19. Lockdown over the past year has made delivery difficult with creative approaches required to run the programme remotely. 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 prison libraries are vital to support learning and wellbeing within the prison.
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.
If library visits aren't possible at the moment think about how you can get books and other reading materials such as newspapers and magazines out onto the wings and how you can use our posters and leaflets to publicise the programme and guide less confident readers in choosing something to read.
Take a look at our list of publishers with books for emergent readers as well as Quick Reads. Showcase popular reads such as urban fiction and encourage peer 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.
Approach other departments in the prison such as education, health or workshops. Share the programme with colleagues to explore how it can be tailored to different settings and interests. At HMP Wandsworth, tutors have run classes in the gym encouraging the men to select different sports and health titles.
With restricted movement at the moment, ensure activity reps know how to sign people up to the challenge and place posters and leaflets in areas that residents are able to spend time.
Make sure management such as the governing governor, HOLS etc. are aware Reading Ahead is taking place. Use it to draw attention to library work at Quality Improvement Group (QIG) meetings if you attend. Make use of our advocacy leaflet and evaluation report.
Organisations who support over 50 participants to complete the challenge receive an organisation certificate and make it onto our roll of honour. Share these goals and successes with senior managers and prison governors to gain their support in spreading the word and ensuring resources are available.
Ask staff to take part so that residents know it's a prison wide activity and award everyone together at the end.
Reading Ahead can be run for a time period to suit you and your readers. For prisons with a high churn it's important to get the programme started from induction onwards and participants will need closer support and incentivising to keep up momentum. Remember that all reading can be included so poems, newspapers, recipes, reading stories to children - all count!
For those prisons with longer term residents the programme can be run over a longer time period or at multiple times throughout the year. The current programme launched on 1 February and will be available to run until June. It will then return in September.
Make some noise when you get started by spreading the word on the wings and putting up posters. When restrictions allow it's best to start with library inductions and inviting people who have taken part previously to share their experience always helps.
4. Engagement & momentum
Word of mouth is the best endorsement so do get participants and previous completers to share their experience. Shannon Trust mentors and library orderlies (or library and activity reps if you have these at the moment) are all effective ways of reaching beyond the library walls.
We have created posters to encourage participants to share their reading with each other. Whilst library staff are off site it can be difficult for participants to choose what to read so having recommendations from staff or peers out on the wings can be helpful. The radio can also be key to spreading the word about how residents can sign up at your prison.
6. Incentives and celebrating success
Incentives for taking part can range from a chocolate bar, to one of our branded incentive items or a Quick Read. This can help gain interest and maintain momentum. As a part of your core pack of materials you'll receive bookmarks and certificates to award to all completers and Give a Book are once again offering free dictionaries for completers!
If restrictions allow in June we would encourage you to hold award ceremonies for completers (with tea, coffee and biscuits!) and ensure their success is recognised and celebrated within the prison and shared with any loved ones on the outside. Encourage residents to add their certificates to their portfolio of achievement and invite senior managers, governors and authors to award certificates.
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