Reading Ahead

The Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme is the largest reading for pleasure initiative currently on offer in prisons.  More than 100 prisons across the UK run it each year and 12,000 prisoners took part in 2016-17 .  It has been recognised by the Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and endorsed by governors and senior library and education managers. 

Give a Book’s partnership with Reading Ahead began in 2013, giving mini-dictionaries to prisoners who complete the Reading Ahead programme (formerly 6 Book Challenge) for adults taking up literacy.

  • Nearly half (46%) of people who have entered prison since August 2014 have low literacy skills, compared to 15% of the general population.
  • Reading Ahead aims to get prisoners reading – both for enjoyment and as a gateway to further library and education activity.
  • Reading Ahead runs in over 100 prisons across the UK and the incentive of getting a dictionary significantly increased participation in the scheme.
  • The gift of a mini-dictionary from Give a Book is the biggest incentive for prisoners to take up the Reading Ahead challenge of literacy.
  • Since starting our partnership with Reading Ahead in 2013, Give a Book have supplied over 49,000 dictionaries to participants in UK prisons. 

Dictionaries are the most talked about prize for Reading Ahead. Often it is the priority for joining Reading Ahead in the first place.”

“Was in Glen Parva YOI just now. Your dictionaries were unanimously voted as the best incentive for taking up the Challenge. Better than chocolate, pens, or good behaviour reports! “ Project Manager RA

my pocket best friend” from a letter from a prisoner

“One of the main attractions for me to start the Six Book Challenge was to obtain the dictionary.  I had not read a book for many years prior to coming to prison, but needed a dictionary to help me understand some my legal documents. By doing the Six Book Challenge I have rediscovered the joy of reading so thank-you for this gift.” Prisoner

 “Dictionaries still pull people into Reading Ahead. I was over at HMP Springhill and nearly everyone I asked who signed up to Reading Ahead said it was to get the dictionary.” Project manager RA.


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