Reading is a fundamental skill that all learners should have access to but with 57% of adult prisoners having literacy levels below those expected of an 11 year old the importance of improving reading education across prisons is vital. Being unable to read can isolate prisoners and cut them off from education and employment opportunities.
At Novus, we are dedicated to providing reading education and enrichment opportunities to learners. We work collaboratively across our prison sites with prison leaders to develop reading strategies with the aim of embedding a focus around reading across each prison.
HMP New Hall and HMP Askham Grange, two women's prisons where Novus provides the education provision have been working hard to encourage learners into reading.
Using In-Cell Technology to support reading initiatives at HMP New Hall
In order to engage learners in reading, HMP New Hall have been using In-Cell Technology to provide more reading initiatives for learners.
Page Turners is a podcast designed to encourage more learners into reading and reach out to those who weren't already accessing the library.
Tayla Allen and Joe Brewerton, tutors at HMP New Hall who created the podcast says that the aim of the podcast is to:
Get rid of the barriers to reading, let learners know about the wide variety of books available, encourage social talk and conversation about books and show reading isn't something done in isolation
With the support of the Prison Digital Lead, they've also been able to upload newsletters, read short stories, publish updates from the library and upload book reviews - all in different ways to the usual written approach.
One of the key aims of Page Turners is to widen the scope of reading materials and the book reviews have started to expose learners to a wide range of different material.
The Page Turner initiative has already proven popular amongst learners with many talking positively about their experiences:
I really enjoyed listening to it and getting ideas for new books to read
The use of in-cell technology has also helped introduce a range of reading initiatives, including Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), reading groups and other prison wide activities.
'Good' Ofsted rating for HMP Askham Grange
Recently, HMP Askham Grange received a 'Good' Ofsted rating where Novus provide the education provision. The female prison received excellent feedback and one of the key areas they focused on was the reading provision.
The success of the reading strategy that is in place was noted by Ofsted:
"Leaders and managers had developed and implemented an effective reading strategy, which was being promoted successfully throughout the prison and had led to women improving their reading skills and reading more. In education, women benefited from initiatives such as books of the week, 'Drop everything and read', and 'blind date with a book' - The few women assessed at below entry level 3 in English undertook a further reading assessment to identify their specific needs, and they were supported well by education and library staff to improve their reading."
To find out more about the education provision at HMP Askham Grange read the full Ofsted report here.
The reading provision at both HMP New Hall and HMP Askham Grange has been a huge success amongst learners who have been able to gain in confidence and reap the benefits of reading. To read more from our other establishments on how they are embedding reading into their curriculum, visit our news section.