About us

Shannon Trust is a national charity supporting thousands of prisoners a year to transform their lives by unlocking the power of reading. We enable prisoners to teach other prisoners to read, so they’re better set up for a positive future.

Unlocking the power of reading.

Reading is so much more than stories. For thousands of people in prison, learning to read will completely transform their life.

People with poor reading skills are more likely to live in inadequate, overcrowded housing, experience poor physical and mental health, be in unskilled jobs or even pursue alternative methods of generating income that can leave them vulnerable to abuse and lead them into crime.


50% of people in prison have a literacy level below that of an 11 year old. Many cannot read at all. Ultimately, this means they have reduced access to education, training and rehabilitation programmes which could transform their lives, and give them hope for a better future outside of prison.

‘There were courses I wanted to do to benefit my future. I wasn't confident in doing them because I knew there was a written part to it and knew that unless I could read I wouldn't be able to do them’.

Shannon Trust changes this through our reading programme. We train prisoners who can read to be Mentors. They are then paired up with a Learner, and work together through our Turning Pages guides. Learners work at their own pace in a safe, private space. 

Mentors and Learners taking part in the Reading Programme have shown they are serious about changing their lives and taking control of their future. They develop sought-after skills that are critical for prospective employers, including communication, teamwork, resilience and a positive attitude. 9/10 Learners go on to engage in other educational courses. 

 ‘Now I can read I’m looking forward to joining college or starting my first job. I actually can’t wait.’

The ability to read not only helps people in prisons engage in life-changing opportunities through education and training, it also helps them maintain relationships with family and friends, which reduces rates of re-offending.

‘I am now more involved with my children, making me a better parent. My relationships with friends and family are now more intimate as I can express myself honestly as I don’t have to rely on others to speak for me.’

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Turning Pages

Turning Pages is our reading programme, created by literacy specialists. It has been used by over 6,000 adult learners since its launch in June 2015.

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Meet our CEO

Meet our CEO, Ian Merrill who joined us in October 2020.

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Our people

Meet some of the Shannon Trust team, who work behind the scenes to make it all possible.