To help tackle society's literacy problems, we have announced new plans to create 10 million opportunities for adults and children to get involved in motivating and confidence building reading activities such as reading challenges and reading groups by 2017.
"In England alone five million adults have inadequate literacy skills" says Miranda McKearney, the charity's CEO. "If you can't and don't read you just don't have an equal chance in life. You can't participate fully in education, employment, your community or cultural life. So we plan to work with public libraries, schools, colleges and prisons across the UK to offer people the chance to get involved in life changing reading activities that help them feel much more confident about reading."
The Reading Agency has already helped create seven million such opportunities over the past ten years by developing national programmes run mainly with public libraries.
Over the next five years, the charity plans to have involved more than five million people in its six book challenges - for children aged 4-11 years (the Summer Reading Challenge) and for adults with literacy needs (the Six Book Challenge). It also aims to get nearly five million adults and children reading more through reading groups in libraries and schools, author events in libraries and schemes like Mood Boosting Books which share uplifting books recommended by thousands of readers.
An Ambassador for The Reading Agency, international bestselling author Andy McNab is now read by millions around the world. But he didn't read a novel until he was 17 when he left borstal and joined the army with the reading age of an 11 year old. "I wanted to support The Reading Agency because I'm a perfect example of how a life can be changed by reading. Having come round to reading later in life than most, I understand the problems that a lot of adults with poor literacy levels are up against. Working with adults on the Six Book Challenge, I have really noticed the difference reading has made to their confidence, their ambitions and to their life chances."
Top ten bestselling novelist Adele Parks, who is also a Reading Agency Ambassador, went on to say: "I've met hundreds of emerging adult readers in workplaces and in learning centres during my time as Ambassador for the charity's adult literacy work and I've found the experience extremely humbling. As an avid reader from a young age I took reading for granted, I've always considered it a basic human right but there are large numbers of people out there for whom it's a struggle. It's been a pleasure watching people discover reading for the first time and developing a certain 'joie de vivre'. More importantly, I've also encountered a lot of under-confident and disadvantaged people who, by improving their reading skills, have had a boost to their confidence and drastically improved their opportunities in their workplace and communities."
Another Ambassador, Hardeep Singh Kohli, has been working with young people on the charity's Reading Activists programme. He commented on the project saying; "These were the sort of kids that didn't have access to writers, books and libraries. Reading simply wasn't part of their world until they participated in this project and discovered passions that they didn't even know they had. One of my mentees became the first member of her family to attend university where she studied creative writing. The Reading Agency showed her that her background wasn't the reason why she shouldn't follow her dreams."
Tina Hewitt from Hull did the Six Book Challenge when she hadn't ever read a whole book before and had a very tough start in life. The effect of managing to read six whole books and getting her first ever public recognition in a certificate award ceremony was life changing. She said: "All my life, since I was young, people have told me I was thick, but I knew deep down that I wasn't and now the Six Book Challenge has changed all that and proved what I can do. I am somebody now".
Key statistics about reading and literacy skills in the UK:
- Government figures show that over 5 million of the working age population in England are still at, or below, the literacy level expected of an 11 year old
- 48% of the prison population have a literacy level of an 11 year old
- Nearly 40% of young people do not read for pleasure
- Nearly a fifth of children would be embarrassed if a friend saw them with a book
- A love of reading is one of the best ways to improve children's life chances
Mandy Pursey, Annabel Robinson or Helen Barnes at FMcM Associates tel: 020 7 405 7422 firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Key Reading Agency programmes to date:
- Summer Reading Challenge: in the past ten years over 6 million children have taken part in this challenge to read six books of their choice from their local library over the Summer holiday. 90% feel more confident about reading after taking part
- Reading Groups for Everyone: 3,060 reading groups for adults, young people and children have registered with Reading Groups for Everyone - our campaign which helps people join, or start a local reading group, and offers reading groups wonderful activities, competitions and book promotions
- Six Book Challenge: since this adult literacy programme launched in 2008, 71,000 adults have taken part. Doing the Challenge builds literacy skills and develops reading confidence
- Chatterbooks: since 2002, 64,000 children aged 4-14 have taken part in Chatterbooks reading groups in libraries and schools that encourage them to read for pleasure
- Young people volunteering in libraries: special support for libraries to create over 9,500 volunteering opportunities for young people aged 11-25 years. Giving them skills, work experience and a real say in how their local library is run
- Reading Partners: since its launch in 2004, forty publishing companies have signed up to support this library/publisher partnership scheme to make sure every UK community benefits from author events, reading group activities and vibrant book promotions