The Reading Agency's Reading Ahead programme relaunches on 1 February with a brand-new digital platform. The programme uses the proven power of reading to tackle life's big challenges by supporting less confident adult readers to build their reading skills and confidence. It is backed by seven high profile author ambassadors committed to promoting adult reading and literacy. Andy McNab, Adele Parks, Dreda Say Mitchell, Bali Rai, Martina Cole, Peter James and Mahsuda Snaith are supporting the launch by sharing what they love about reading, why it is important and recommendations to get people started on their Reading Ahead journey.
Recommendations include Stevie Wonder's lyrics to 'Living for the City' from Dreda Say Michell; Kurt Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse-Five' and the graphic novel version by author Ryan North and illustrator Albert Monteys from Peter James; and the 'best recipe ever for Toad in the Hole' on the BBC website from Andy McNab.
"The Reading Agency connects with hard-to-reach communities to improve literacy skills and gets people who otherwise might not pick up a book, reading. I am a huge admirer of what the Agency does, so what an honour to be part of such an innovative and ground-breaking initiative that truly makes a difference in people's lives." - Dreda Say Mitchell, Reading Ahead Ambassador
Reading Ahead challenges participants to choose six reads - they don't have to be books! - and record their thoughts in a reading diary. In 2018-19, over 30,000 people took part in Reading Ahead through public libraries, colleges, workplaces and prisons. Through encouraging and supporting young people and adults to read for pleasure the programme consistently finds that participants report increased confidence and improved skills. An evaluation of the 2019-20 programme will be published in February 2021.
In response to the challenges of the pandemic The Reading Agency has taken Reading Ahead online with the option to take part through a digital platform. The new website will allow participants to record their reading and share ratings and reviews. It will include a unique reading database and reading recommendation tool, Find A Read, which is searchable by reading level. Find out more about delivering the programme here.
"We know that to be a reader is really important to life chances and quality. We also know that reading for pleasure is one of the best ways to build reading skills and confidence which is why Reading Ahead works. We're therefore delighted to be launching our new Reading Ahead digital platform using the proven power of reading to help tackle poor literacy and build a nation of readers." - Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency
The programme is supported by The Reading Agency's Quick Reads programme that commissions short books by bestselling authors specifically written to be easy to read and engage new audiences. Six new Quick Reads will be published on 27 May 2021. Reading Ahead ambassador Peter James wrote a Quick Read in 2014 and has another being published in May:
"I'll never forget having a conversation with a lady who had read The Perfect Murder (Quick Reads, 2014). Before participating in the Reading Agency's Reading Ahead programme, she had only been able to read children's books and was too embarrassed to read in public - for example on the bus or in a library. She was so thrilled to have reached a level where she could read books for adults... A love of books is a joy everyone deserves, both for themselves but also so they can set a good example for their children and grandchildren." - Peter James, Reading Ahead ambassador
In addition to the digital platform, Reading Ahead will continue to take place with physical, printed resources to ensure everyone can take part. This is particularly important for those who take part in prison (over 9,000 people in 2018/19). The Reading Ahead in prison programme is supported by Give A Book who provide free dictionaries to those who complete the challenge. Along with a Reading Ahead certificate, this incentive is extremely valuable for engaging new readers and rewarding their achievement on completion.
"This put me on to reading rather than TV. It gave me something to work towards and also something to be proud of completing." - Gareth, HMP Channings Wood
Reading Ahead 2021 launches on 1 February. Find out more at readingagency.org.uk and readingahead.org.uk (from 1 February).