Reading Agency, Quick Reads launch prison scheme

The Reading Agency and Quick Reads are launching a new project called One Quick Read One Prison, aiming to encourage prisoners and prison staff to take up reading.

More than 2,500 copies of 2013’s six Quick Reads books have been distributed to seven prisons, with the aim of getting everyone to read and talk about books at the same time.

Nick Walmsley, regimes manager at HMP Pentonville said: “Seven out of ten prisoners say they have a learning or literacy problem. We believe in the Six Book Challenge because we've seen it have a big impact at Pentonville. Getting prisoners literate will reduce re-offending rates because it gives them more opportunities in life.”

The Six Book Challenge runs each year and aims to get unconfident readers to read six new books. Last year, Pentonville received a gold award from The Reading Agency for helping 153 prisoners complete the challenge.

To promote the new scheme, former SAS soldier and author Andy McNab will visit HMYOI Portland on 24th May to speak about his own experiences, going from borstal to join the army at the age of 17, with a reading age of 11. Five-hundred copies of his Quick Reads title Today Everything Changes will be given out.

Cathy Rentzenbrink, project director for Quick Reads, said: "I've been doing my job for a year and was amazed to find out the extent to which the nation's prisons are packed with people who struggle with reading. If you can't read or write well enough to fill out forms everything about normal life is incredibly hard.

"We are delighted that the generous support of our publishers has enabled us to provide the books for this project as we know that engaging with books and reading helps prisoners to build both skills and confidence which should make them less likely to re-offend."