At Novus, we place a particular importance on our reading provision. Being able to read is a fundamental skill all learners should have access to, which is why we are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage learners in our reading provision.
Innovating in our reading provision allows us to create an enriching and dynamic learning environment. We understand that engagement is key to effective learning and by embracing creativity, we aim to make acquiring this fundamental skill not just educational, but fun.
Reading and literacy in UK prisons
For many prisoners in Britain, literacy rates present a significant challenge to learning, with a notable proportion facing difficulties in reading and writing. The state of reading education provisions across UK prisons is varied, reflecting the diverse landscape of correctional facilities across the board.
While efforts are being made to address literacy requirements for incarcerated individuals, there is a recognised need for more comprehensive and innovative approaches.
We actively contribute to this conversation, bridging gaps in reading education through tailored programmes that recognise the unique needs of incarcerated learners.
Prisoner rehabilitation through education
By implementing engaging strategies and embracing events like National Poetry Day, Novus advocates for higher literacy levels and positive learning environments for all learner groups in UK prisons.
Reading and learning are instrumental for prisoner rehabilitation and reducing reoffending; imparting essential functional skills, building confidence, and fostering personal development. This all contributes to our holistic support provisions for incarcerated individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
Acquiring literacy enhances communication, critical thinking, and employability, while educational engagement and creative enrichment promotes self-reflection and a positive mindset - facilitating a smoother reintegration into society and decreasing the likelihood of re-offense.
Celebrating National Poetry Day
In celebration of National Poetry Day, prison sites across Lot 6 used the event to successfully support their prisons reading strategies.
Poetry is a fantastic way to increase the opportunities for learners to read for pleasure, especially when the poems chosen are on engaging topics.
By participating in this celebration, we integrate poetry as a dynamic element within our reading provision. The event serves as a strategic platform to enhance literacy skills, offering a unique avenue for learners to engage with language in a profound and personal way.
Through the exploration of poetic expression, learners not only refine their reading abilities but also experience the therapeutic benefits of self-reflection and creative engagement.
At Novus, we recognise and embrace the transformative potential of poetry as part of our reading strategy for incarcerated learners.
Celebrating National Poetry Day in HMPs
During the day, learners in varied subjects read poetry in their classes and each site took part in activities to promote reading and celebrate National Poetry Day:
Five learners entered the poetry competition, and each received positive written feedback on their poems by a member of staff who has a degree in, and a love of English Literature. The poems will be written up and added to our poetry display in the library.
The participants will also have the opportunity to be entered in the next Koestler Literary awards and poetry books will be given out as prizes to three participants.
HMP Buckley Hall
Most of the groups who participated took part in an activity connected to National Poetry Day where they were able to produce their own poems. The upcycling and textiles group wrote a poem about their trainers. The tutor gave the group a picture of a trainer which they coloured in to look how they wanted, and were given a template so that they could write a poem and produce some effective verses.
The group really engaged with the activity and wrote verses such as: 'My trainers are cool, my trainers are sweet, what I would give to be back on the street....'
Learners in English and IT classes wrote poetry and most colleagues got involved in the day. A tutor used poetry to incorporate Black History Month, which the learners really engaged with. They were fascinated by the difference in the language and dialect and really enjoyed it.
The event was a success with several learners entering the poetry competition.
Tutors and learners at HMP Risley took part in the national poetry activities and engaged in a group discussion and learners wrote their own poems. They learnt that poetry is an effective way to get a message across and not all poetry has to rhyme. Many of the learners also shared some interesting discussion points around the poems they had written.
The event was received well by learners with many commenting positively on their experience:
I enjoy reading poetry. It's really just about life.
It really improved my mental health to write poetry.
HMP Thorn Cross
The poetry activities were a success amongst learners at HMP Thorn Cross with tutors commenting that learners they wouldn’t have expected were happy to choose a poem and read it out. They also commented that learners were keen to create their own poetry with one learner planning to write a poem for his wife’s birthday.
An engaging collaboration with Danyah Miller
At Novus, we continue to develop ways to engage our learners and colleagues with the benefits of reading. We have worked with poets, theatre companies and literacy specialists and now we have widened our remit to storytelling.
Feedback from learners suggested that they wanted to know how to create stories for their children and colleagues also asked for support in expanding their learner’s creative writing skills.
This led to Danyah Miller, an expert and experienced storyteller working with both colleagues and learners on the art of storytelling.
Working with colleagues to develop their storytelling skills
We welcomed Danyah Miller to Manchester to spend the day demonstrating a vast range of activities and techniques to stimulate the imagination, increase confidence and inject joy into learning.
Colleagues discovered how to use everyday objects to inspire creative thinking, enhance descriptive skills and see things from new perspectives. They also practiced a number of ways to use words collaboratively, to build stories out of thin air and learnt how to structure a tale using character, setting and an object or obstacle.
The event was a success amongst colleagues who gave positive feedback on the event:
A wonderful session which was highly beneficial and thoroughly enjoyable!
I have gained a variety of new 'tools' that I can utilise in my delivery and also disseminate to my team to encourage creativity and develop learner engagement.
The activities can be used to support confidence and team building in any classroom, not just English and are particularly relevant to prisoners who have children or younger relatives and are looking to increase their bond on visits and over phone calls.
Danyah Miller’s visit to HMP Buckley Hall
After delivering a successful session to colleagues in Manchester, Danyah visited HMP Buckley Hall to deliver a wonderful day of sessions. Learners worked with Danyah to explore their storytelling and creative skills to have fun and create good memories with their children on visits.
Participants told stories in groups, created characters together and looked at ways to boost their children’s self-esteem even when apart. Learners explained how positive they found the workshops:
It was very eye-opening and interesting, and I really enjoyed it. I have learnt how to tell stories to my son and the way to do it.
The sessions with Danyah have been really helpful in ensuring we can support the establishments we work with to “promote reading throughout the prison” as recommended by Ofsted and HMIP in their latest reviews of reading.
Through collaboration and partnerships, we are able to offer more opportunities for learners to engage and interact with education. Community and Legislative support are the bedrock of Novus's efforts in transforming lives through education. Join us in championing literacy, learning, and empowering individuals on their journey toward rehabilitation.
If you’d like to learn more or if you are interested in working with us, contact us here.