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Pilot phase 2012

Pigeon English was used as the text for the 2012 Books Unlocked pilot and Man Booker Prize Shortlisted author, Stephen Kelman, launched the project with visits to HMP Brixton and HMP Lewes. Read news story

For many participants this was their first exposure to high-quality literature and for a significant minority this was the first book that they had read from start to finish. The pilot was a huge success, with prisoners giving positive feedback about the discussions and time that they had spent in their groups.

Project Delivery 2013/14

In 2013/14, we worked with prisons across England and Wales and participants could choose to read Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English, as offered in the pilot project, and a further three Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles: Snowdrops by AD Miller, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt and The Long Song by Andrea Levy. The project was launched in November 2013 with a visit by AD Miller to HMP Wandsworth. Read news story

An interview with Patrick deWitt was also featured in 'Not Shut Up', a magazine of arts and writing from secure settings. Each Books Unlocked participant received a reading and creative writing journal with tips from Man Booker Prize-shortlisted authors, in which they could record their responses and pursue their creative writing.

Books Unlocked in 2014/15

In 2014/15 we increased the number of prisoners and young offenders we worked with, as well as the number of Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles available. As part of the programme we also worked with Quick Reads. Now part of the Reading Agency, the Quick Reads project works to break down the barriers to reading. We were able to offer Roddy Doyle's Dead Man Talking as part of Books Unlocked. Read news story

We continued to collaborate with a variety of organisations dedicated to improving access to literature. Audio books of the featured titles were serialised and author interviews broadcast by National Prison Radio, enabling us to reach a wider audience. Books Unlocked also gave participants the chance to respond to texts creatively in a writing journal. A number of authors and editors of the featured Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles also visited prisons throughout the year Read news story


The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
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