Supporting learners into reading at HMP Wealstun
Research shows that 57% of adult prisoners had literacy levels below those expected of an 11 year old stressing the importance of extra support in prison education.
Being able to read is a fundamental skill that all prisoner learners should be supported with. Research shows that reading can be a transformative force, giving prisoners the chance to develop crucial literacy skills, expand their knowledge and find pleasure in learning.
This is why, as part of their reading strategy, HMP Wealstun have opened their own reading room, supporting Novus' mission for learners to develop a love for reading across the prison.
The reading room offers learners requiring support a safe space to learn in a non-judgmental environment. The room is bright and furnished with bean bags to create a relaxed atmosphere. It is filled with books for all reading abilities, as well as newspapers and magazines.
The room provides a breakout area for learners who have learning support needs and encourages them to use this time effectively in a calm, quiet environment where they are able to learn at their own pace.
Going forward HMP Wealstun will be introducing short phonics sessions for low level reading; this will be working in partnership with Shannon's Trust and will hopefully help to improve the learner's journey from starting Shannon's Trust phonics sessions to eventually having the confidence to go into a Novus run entry level English class. Collaboration and joint up thinking is key here and the relationship with Shannon Trust, puts learners needs at the heart of its thinking.
Activities to support the reading strategy and inspiring learners to read
The reading room have introduced further activities such as quiz time and debate teams to further inspire learners into reading which have been well attended so far.
Learners can apply to attend a debate and are given research material where they can choose which side of the debate they would like to argue.
By taking part in activities like debate teams and quizzes learners are able to expand their literacy skills and knowledge whilst also being encouraged to read.
Employment opportunities, education and skills
The Right Honourable Damian Hinds, Minister for Prisons and Probation recently visited the site to look at employment opportunities, education and skills. He visited the reading room and took great interest in the debate being held about Euthanasia.
Learners were keen to respond to his questions regarding their reasons for their arguments. He commented that as a politician, debating was part of his job and advised learners to consider debating the opposite side of the arugment to broaden their prospective which could result in changes of opinion.
If learners are given the skills and opportunities necessary, then they have the chance to thrive once released. Improving reading skills can, of itself, improve employability and give access to other educational opportunities that will also improve the learners' prospects after prison. If learners are able to find employability upon release, then they are less likely to reoffend giving them a better chance at rehabilitation.
Learner participation in the reading hub
Learners have been invovled in the development of the room including the colour scheme, furnishings and have worked hard to produce artwork and reading notice boards.
By allowing learners to participate in the development of the reading hub they've been able to create an environment for themselves in which they can learn and thrive.
Interested in our reading agenda, and the need for a more effective English education in UK prisons? Read more on our website.