Over 50% of people in prison have a literacy level below that of an 11-year-old. Many cannot read at all.

Learning to read transforms lives. It means people in prison can access more opportunities, improve their confidence and rely less on others for help. Because our programme is peer-to-peer, both mentors and learners develop key skills that can help them find future employment.

How it works

We know a lot of people have had bad learning experiences in the past, so our programme is designed to be different. Find out how it works, and how you or someone you know can get help below.

  • The programme is supported by Shannon Trust staff, and a team of 135 volunteers
  • Volunteers work with an individual prison, to train mentors (people in prison who can read) and provide support and advice
  • Mentors work on a one-to-one basis with their learner in short, regular sessions
  • Learners set their own goals, go at their own pace, and take breaks as they need to
  • There are no exams and no classrooms
  • The programme is free to all learners. As well as the option of one-to-one learning with a mentor, they can also self-study
  • We offer a complete programme - resources, a network, support and training - and we have plans to expand our learning offer in future

Our unique, evidence-based Turning Pages reading manuals are used by thousands of learners in prisons and the community. The reading books used as part of the programme are suitable for adults, using real life stories, with some mentors having written our books.

The benefits

Not being able to read affects more people than you think, yet learning can be a powerful springboard into so many other opportunities.

  • It makes day to day life easier - almost everything in prison is done by filling in forms, such as applying for a job or course in prison, requesting to move cells, or selecting meals
  • It’s safer for the learner and those around them. Reading enables people to read signs and instructions
  • It improves family relationships including with children, and helps to break the cycle of low literacy
  • Learning to read is often the first step into further learning and employment, with 9 out of 10 Shannon Trust learners seeking out further education
  • It reduces re-offending and improves communities

We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and has the potential to create a positive future in which they can thrive.

How to refer someone

If you know someone in prison that can’t read, you can give them the chance to learn - it’s easy to make a referral and it’s great to see how fast people can progress.

If you know someone in prison, they can find our mentors by looking for people in blue Shannon Trust t-shirts. They can speak to the mentor and refer themselves for learning to read.

Learners can also speak to a member of prison staff and ask about Shannon Trust or Turning Pages.

If you are a member of prison staff and you’d like to refer someone, please speak to your Shannon Trust lead. If you’re not sure who your Shannon Trust lead is, please get in touch.

Get in touch