Reading Ahead runs successfully in workplaces all over the UK from supermarkets to hospitals, offices and transport depots. In the best cases it's used to engage employees in further learning, break down barriers across the workplace and introduce a reading culture. Many workplaces use the Quick Reads series of books and get book swaps going; others link with their local library.
It can take people by surprise how quickly Reading Ahead gets moving in a workplace given the right kind of promotion. Mayank Pandit, UNISON union learning rep for Leicester City Council Transport Department says: "When I started, I thought I would be lucky to get 20 people signed up. Then I thought I would try for 30, and now I have over 40."
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. Play to your strengths and be prepared
"Do what you're best at. That's what I always say," says Sandra Absalom, South West Regional Learning Secretary for the CWU at the Royal Mail depot at Swindon. "And what I do best is talk. I talk about the challenge a lot. I don't just rely on the posters. I go out and talk to people."
Your readers are likely to vary in reading level so make sure you're prepared to engage them with the benefits of taking part from learning skills to progress at work to confidently reading a child a bedtime story. Find out what drives your colleagues and how reading can benefit them personally.
Be prepared to recommend a wide range of reading materials - remember it doesn't have to be books! Take a look at our list of publishers with books for emergent readers as well as Quick Reads.
Use our posters and leaflets to publicise the programme on noticeboards, plasma screens, websites and 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.
Linking up with other workplaces can generate more of a buzz in your own company. Ya Ching Darnell, ULR at transport company LCRCA, has run Reading Ahead many times but finds it's not always easy to keep it growing. "I had 100 people signed up but I thought, where can I get more?" So she contacted other organisations that work in the same building, including the company that handles Liverpool's recycling and waste disposal. "I went and talked to them and they were really interested in taking part."
One of the most important partnerships can be with your local public library as you'll then have somewhere to direct people to find books for free and make the most of the librarians' expertise in selecting and recommending books at the right level. Reach out to your local public library and get them excited about Reading Ahead and how you can work together. They might already to running the challenge and you can pool resources.
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 staff to gain their support in spreading the word and ensuring resources are available. Make use of our advocacy leaflet and evaluation report.
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, Learning at Work Week and Adult Learners' Week.
Use monthly email reminders, a book swap or lending library in the learning centre, staff room or café. 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.
Unionlearn have a toolkit for making the most of Quick Reads and how you can use them when running Reading Ahead.
4. Incentives and celebrating success
Get some attention! This can be through introducing some healthy competition such as a leader board or celebrating progress.
At the Tesco Express in Watford they had the great idea of creating a huge book in which they put the names of all the Challenge completers. "I've been really surprised by how many staff have got involved - 90 so far," reports William Waite, shop worker and Eastern Division Organising Officer for Usdaw. "I thought I would just get the 10-15 usual readers but it's got a lot broader than that. We've had some people who really weren't confident readers but now they're giving it a go."
Start with a bang by holding a party, a competition or a musical event. This is a real chance to show off the library and get previous completers to talk about their experience.
Make sure everyone knows what prizes you are offering - we offer branded incentive items and Quick Reads, you can supplement these with local items.
Celebrate success with even more of a bang with an awards ceremony. Invite a local celebrity - the mayor, an author, a sports star - and aim to get some press coverage. 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 email@example.com