Reading is our passion at Storybook Dads and it’s at the heart of our service connecting families. For most of us, it’s something that just becomes second nature and that we pick up so early on in our lives that we can’t remember a time when words were just a series of symbols on a page. However, for many adults in the prison service reading is not something that comes easily, is the source of frustration and embarrassment and is a skill that they have never mastered.

There are many reasons why this can be the case; an undiagnosed learning difficulty such as dyslexia, reading not being valued at home or not having been to school at all. It becomes increasingly clear with each passing week in prison that there are many adults who are unable to connect with Storybook Dads because of either insecurities around their reading or simply, they can’t read the posters that advertise our services.

This year we have been building links to another fantastic prison based charity - Shannon Trust, who are the specialists in teaching adult learners to read. They have developed the definitive programme for teaching reading, using a peer-based mentoring approach; prisoners who can read, help those that can’t. Taking away the pressure of a classroom environment has proven to be successful time and again as prisoners take responsibility for their own development. Joining forces with Shannon Trust to spread the word about what we do enables us to access the non-readers or under-confident readers who perhaps wouldn’t reach out to us otherwise. It is not often realised that we can and do offer our services to prisoners at whatever stage of their reading journey they’re at.

For non-readers or those with poor English, for example foreign nationals, we are able to offer assisted reads. This means our coordinator in prison has a second copy of the book and helps by reading a line which the prisoner then repeats. In the editing process, we are able to remove the coordinator’s voice so the prisoner is reading the book by themselves. An assisted read is a small step along the way to becoming a more confident reader. For those prisoners who have found their way to us via word of mouth who would like to improve their reading, we can also signpost Shannon Trust services providing reassurance about the process.

On this International Literacy day, we are very proud to be playing a part in improving Literacy levels in prison. What better way to encourage someone to engage with reading than being able to read a bedtime story to their child.

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