Three years ago, we were looking for a new way of encouraging students to engage in the enjoyment of reading. We came across ‘The Six Book Challenge’, which is organised by the Reading Agency in England. We looked at this programme and tailored it to suit our needs. We had received a grant from Better World Books Fund and we used the grant to purchase the necessary resources to offer learners this programme. These included diaries, Quick Reads, pens and an incentive to take part in the Challenge.
For the Reading Challenge to work, we needed a simple and effective tool to build local partnership, so the starting point was the local library. We wanted to encourage the use of the local library and we were fortunate that the staff at Killarney Library were delighted to help in whatever way they could. They have been a great support to our Adult Literacy Centre. There is now a partnership agreement with Kerry ETB and Kerry County Library to fund the printing of the diaries and the certificates. The Reading Diary is the key element of the programme which students take pride in completing.
The Reading Challenge encourages less confident readers to pick six reads, record their reading in a diary and write a piece describing their experience in less than fifty words, in order to receive a certificate and an incentive. There is no ‘set’ of books or resources for the Reading Challenge and no stipulation that only books can be used. This is what makes this programme unique and so successful.
The whole aim is to engage students in text and that may be best achieved for new readers through books, magazines, newspaper articles, ebooks, poetry or social media.
A successful pilot programme was run in 2013. After that, tutors (group and 1:1) were encouraged to introduce the Reading Challenge to their students. This was a slow process but now the tutors see the benefits for their students in reading, writing, spelling, listening and speaking. The Reading Challenge is a programme to be incorporated into the literacy class. So from humble beginnings, forty two students completed the Reading Challenge in 2016 and the 2017 Reading Challenge is already underway.
Tutors and students need to take ownership of the Reading Challenge and instead of being a chore, it has become a nice way to finish the class session each week.
The benefits for the students are many –
- It stimulates an interest in reading
- Reading independently, often for the first time
- Being able to read a story to your child at bedtime
- Using the library – intergenerational taking your children or grandchildren to the library
- Being able to express an option about a piece of reading, this in turn builds the student’s confidence.
Quote from a student
“Taking the time to sit and read has opened a new door in my life. Wherever I go from here I will always have a book with me. For me this has been a wonderful journey, it has helped to open up my mind again.”
Mary Concannon – Adult Literacy Organiser, Killarney (Kerry ETB)