“I want to be able to read the letters my daughter writes to me and be able to write back”
These were the opening words that Joe spoke to the Shannon Trust Turning Pages Reading Plan Lead at HMP Garth.
Joe had been in and out of prison for most of his adult life and had missed out on any formal education. He admitted that he had survived and bluffed his way through situations with a mixture of charm and humour.
However, having to take his young daughter’s letters to a friend to read to him and then having to ask someone to reply on his behalf was very difficult and he was embarrassed, on occasions, to express his true feelings.
Joe was a complete beginner but was determined to overcome his personal obstacles. Joe was paired with Martin who was a very experienced mentor and the 2 of them established a very good working relationship.
The initial work was exhausting for Joe but Martin went at his pace and was meticulous in his teaching to help Joe build his confidence in reading.
After a few weeks and following receipt of his first Certificate of Progression, Joe began to blossom. His trust in Martin grew and in the session “downtime” he would talk about his family and began to show Martin his letters and his first attempts at writing.
Joe’s major breakthrough came when he was able to pick out words in a letter from his daughter and gradually he learnt to read all of the letters sent to him.
He then began to reply to these letters as his reading and writing confidence grew allowing him to progress steadily.
Many people may forget that learning to read has many benefits, not just the reading of books. Joe talks enthusiastically about hearing from his daughter when, for the first time, she saw “Daddy’s writing” and had a letter all in the same handwriting for the first time ever.
Joe has been able to develop a much deeper bond with his family and children as he has progressed through the Shannon Trust Reading Scheme.
Joe has stuck to his task and given huge commitment to the scheme and has now completed all five books. He has become an independent reader and, more importantly for him, he has become a writer growing in ability all the time.
For Martin, he has gained the satisfaction of seeing his mentee develop from a complete beginner to becoming a confident reader. Joe’s enthusiasm was infectious and allowed Martin to recognise his efforts in mentoring being rewarded and extremely fulfilling.
Martin says “in experiences like this, I remember the buzz you get from being a mentor, how you can touch people and genuinely make a real difference to by taking the time and developing the patience to work with a mentee.”
Joe says “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.”
Turning Pages does change people’s lives for the better by giving them a gift and a skill for life that both enriches and enhances all aspects of their being.
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