More than a Book Week: A Week of Reading Beyond the Pages in Prisons
In charge of the initiative Sarah Jones, Head of Neurodiversity and Functional Skills and Stephanie Ranson HMP Foston Hall's Assistant Manager at PeoplePlus understand that reading extends far beyond the confines of a traditional book and wanted to do something that would really capture the prisoners imagination and help them to understand the benefits and joys of reading and literacy.
Statistics say there is a significant literacy challenge within the prison population, with 57% of prisoners screening below the literacy level of an 11-year-old. While the actual numbers may be even higher, 'More than a Book Week' aimed to bridge this educational gap.
Here are some highlights of what’s been happening across the prisons:
At HMP Norwich, the education team transformed classroom doors into iconic book covers and the prisoners in each room are collectively reading the book visualised on the door. The tutors and prisoners also identified their favourite books and discussed what they liked about them.
At HMP Littlehey, inspired by the movie 'Flushed Away,' plumbing students reproduced their own visual film title using the skills learnt on their plumbing course. They worked as a group to read the instructions – supporting confident reading to an audience.
One prisoner said:, "More than a book week in the plumbing class has provided us the opportunity to explore how we read within the industry and our class, helping support new knowledge. I had no previous experience of plumbing and I liked how we all got involved in the planning and preparation " Another prisoner highlighted the supportive environment, stating, "I am not a confident reader, but sharing the reading with the class boosted me to become more involved."
At HMP Morton Hall, Painting and Decorating tutor Rik Carpenter, a published author of two amazing books, conducted workshops for prisoners about his journey into writing books and how he found the perfect illustrator for them.
HMP The Mount's education team organised reading-themed competitions including designing the reading logo and motto for the prison. They also hosted author Abi Silver, who shared her experiences as a lawyer to craft legal thrillers. Prisoners created their own fictional characters to write about and shared them with the group.
HMP Lincoln's education team transformed classrooms into literary wonders, decorating classroom doors and corridors to represent different books and reading initiatives that are available. Storybook Dads which enables the men to record themselves reading a bedtime story to their child, which can then be sent home. This is proven to help reduce trauma for the child and maintain relationships. They also discovered a scheme called Raising Readers, where the men can choose a book to send home to their child. They will also receive a copy so they can read the story over the phone to them.
In maths, the men developed their dictionary skills and completed an activity called 'Rip it up', which encouraged the men to read a variety of different poems and then rip off the words they wanted to use to create their own poem linked to 'The Outsider'. One learner who has ADHD and struggles to engage said he had found this interesting and was proud of his creation! So much so he made a copy to take away with him!
Sarah Jones comments: "Our prison education teams and prisoners have truly embraced the event this week and produced some amazing work. There have been such a range of activities that have really encouraged curiosity with reading. For me, reading is a passport to countless adventures, and hopefully, the heart of 'More than a Book' will continue into the future."
This initiative has not only broadened horizons but also fostered a love for learning and literacy that will leave a lasting impact on all involved. Dr. Seuss's timeless wisdom encapsulates the spirit of the initiative: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."