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Literacy news

Man Booker shortlisted author inspires prisoners to read

22 Oct 2012

Recent statistics shows that literacy is a significant issue in prisons: 60% of prisoners have difficulties with basic literacy skills, half the male prison population was excluded from school and 20-30% of the prison population has learning difficulties.

In an attempt to support prisoners and young offenders to become avid readers, author Stephen Kelman has visited prisons in Lewes and Brixton to encourage prisoners to read. The visits have been organised by the National Literacy Trust in partnership with the Booker Prize Foundation, which is building on its history of celebrating the best in contemporary literature by increasing disadvantaged communities' access to high-quality writing. You can view a short film of one of the visits below.

Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011, tells the story of a young boy on an inner-city council estate. It was selected as the focus for the visits because it may have resonance with many prisoners. The author said:

I’m thrilled that Pigeon English has been chosen for this project and I’m really looking forward to taking part. I’m sure it will be a valuable and rewarding experience. Books can change lives – they changed mine and I’m honoured to get the chance to share my story.

Jonathan Taylor, Chief Executive at the Booker Prize Foundation, said:

This is the first initiative from the Booker Prize Foundation as part of its wider collaboration with the Man Charitable Trust. It aims to provide a bridge between literacy and literature and to encourage more people to be able to read good books.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust said:

In June 2012 there were 86,048** prisoners in England and Wales. Nearly half*** of these prisoners have serious problems with reading that need to be addressed. We hope that having a renowned author visit these institutions will inspire prisoners both to pick up a book and to work on their literacy skills while in prison. We would like to thank the Booker Prize Foundation for funding the initiative and Bloomsbury Publishing for kindly donating copies of Pigeon English.

As well as Lewes and Brixton, the initiative will also take place at HMP Swaleside. Prison librarians will be given lesson plans to use with their reading groups and participating prisoners will each receive a reading journal to track their progress and a certificate of achievement. Pigeon English will also be serialised on prison radio, reaching up to 50,000 prisoners across England and Wales.

View a short film of the visit

https://vimeo.com/53847991

**http://www.justice.gov.uk/statistics/prisons-and-probation/oms-quarterly

***http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0000/0422/Literacy_changes_lives__prisons.pdf

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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.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.