The reading programme

For most of us, reading is a skill we take for granted. For thousands of people in prison, reading a letter from home, a job application or a newspaper is impossible.

The challenge

Imagine if you couldn't read. For thousands of men and women in prison, this is the reality.

Nearly 50% of people in prison have a literacy level at or below what's needed for successful employment; many can't read at all. Not being able to read in prison reduces access to education, training and rehabilitation programmes, and on release reduces the chances of a new and different life.

Prisoners who can’t read often feel embarrassed, vulnerable and isolated when faced with being unable to read letters from home, know what they are choosing from the meal menu or make an application for health care.

We're breaking the cycle of non-reading with the Shannon Trust reading programme, a peer-mentored adult reading programme that gives prisoners a vital skill and a fresh start in life. 

Our peer-mentored approach is key to our success. Mentors and Learners taking part have a sense of ownership which builds confidence, skills and aspiration. Working together, they unlock the power of reading.

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'I learned he was deeply embarrassed because he couldn't read letters from his family. He desperately wanted to have a closer tie with them.'

Shannon Trust Mentor

Shannon Trust reading programme

Making the impossible possible.

Our reading programme is designed to make it as easy as possible for someone struggling with reading to begin to learn and improve their skills when the time is right for them. 

Trained prisoner Mentors work on a 1-to-1 basis with their Learners in short bursts, usually 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Sessions take place in a safe, private space and Learners progress at their own pace; there are no exams.

The reading programme uses Turning Pages, Shannon Trust's reading scheme, specifically designed for adults learning to read. It's made up of 5 manuals and 30 accompanying grade reading books which have been written for adults to enjoy.

Our nationwide team of volunteers train and support Mentors in prison, and we are work closely with staff in prisons to make the Shannon Trust available to anyone struggling with reading.

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'It's not so embarrassing because before I used to go and ask people if I had a letter can they read it for me. Since I've been doing Turning Pages I can read it, I can read it myself so it's private, it's not shared.'

Shannon Trust Learner