The Reading Agency & The Six Book Challenge

There was a characteristically inspiring and informative event hosted by The Reading Agency for prison library staff and other supporters on Monday 9th. Held at the excellent Clink Restaurant in the heart of HMP Brixton the event was to publicise the latest initiative of the Six Book Challenge, currently in its 8th year.  David Kendall of The Reading Agency told us that 90% of people feel more confident after taking up the 6BC, that 9,000 people in prisons have taken it up, that 30 prisons have 50 or more 6BC completers and that 9 prisons currently have more than 150 completers. In collaboration with National Prison Radio theres been a huge push to  spread the word more widely and this has already– this year– resulted in 500 people completing the Six Book Challenge. With the generous support of Harper Collins, Give a Book sent out their mini-dictionaries last week.

The Reading Agency is aiming to grow this number to 10,000 prisoners participating in the  Six Book Challenge reading for pleasure programme across the UK in 2015.

With support from organisations such as the Prison Radio Association, Quick Reads, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Prison Reading Groups, the Shannon Trust Reading Plan and Give a Book, the Six Book Challenge will be used to increase literacy skills among prisoners, helping to reduce reoffending rates and increase their life chances upon release.

At least 110 libraries in prisons and YOIs have committed to running the Six Book Challenge in 2015, which encourages less confident or lapsed readers to pick any six reads of their choice – magazine and newspaper articles, song lyrics, poems or comics as well as books – and record their reading in a diary in order to receive a certificate and a mini-dictionary.

Guests at the Clink event were welcomed by Sally Hill, Brixton prison’s deputy governor, and Genevieve Clarke and David Kendall from The Reading Agency.  Erwin James spoke about the key role of reading in rehabilitation and about his own experience. He said: “Reading is as powerful an intervention in changing behaviour patterns as anything. A good book can change the way we think about life.”

Award-winning author, broadcaster and education consultant Dreda Say Mitchell spoke about the role of storytelling in helping young people find something to believe in.

The Six Book Challenge is increasingly recognised as a key intervention using reading for pleasure to help tackle the UK’s continuing skills deficit.  In 2014 the Six Book Challenge reached well over 30,000 people across the UK through FE and sixth form colleges, public libraries, adult community learning settings, army education centres and workplaces and 9000 through prisons.



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