Participants in the challenge enrolled via Literacy and ESOL classes and community groups contacted through the libraries’ outreach activities, as well as in the Westminster libraries themselves.
Literacy and ESOL tutors at the classes are key to promoting the challenge and giving students support and encouragement to continue and complete the six books. Equally important is for library staff to maintain contact with both tutors and participants. The books used were from the Basic Skills Books collections which all Westminster lending libraries have developed and built up.
Nearly 300 people participated across the borough, either completing 6 books (completers) or between 2 and 5 books (participants) – each was then eligible for the appropriate certificate. All completers were eligible for the national draw for a prize, and there were also local draws for completers, with prizes generously donated by Westminster Kingsway College, The Vincent Rooms, The London Transport Museum, Sainsbury’s on Victoria Street and others.
At least 40 completers and participants attended the celebration at Paddington Library, along with a number of tutors and senior colleagues. One of our completers won the National Prize Draw and we were delighted that Genevieve Clarke, Senior Project Manager of The Reading Agency (which set up and administers the challenge) also spoke at the celebration. The winner’s story will also appear on the Reading Agency’s Six Book Challenge website.
“When I went home and showed my certificate to my children and grandchildren they were contemplating how and what kind of frame to use to display my certificate. It felt like being a graduate. I had attended my children’s’ graduation ceremonies but never ever had I thought I would be part of something like that”.
“I thought we were just reading books to improve our English but to get a certificate was something totally amazing. I am taking this to show my Job Centre Advisor next time when I go for signing in.”
The crime writer Linda Stratmann (seen on the right in the picture), author of the book Whiteley’s Folly, kindly agreed to present the certificates at Paddington, and spoke to the assembled guests about the pleasures and benefits of learning to read confidently.
To round off the event, one of the completers read out her poem about the importance of being confident in English, especially if you are someone for whom it is a second language.
The last word must go to Suhad, our national prize draw winner:
Through my learning experience, I have felt that my knowledge has expanded as I have improved my reading, speaking and writing skills. This experience has opened my eyes in life because it helped me develop my understanding, therefore I can communicate better when travelling and exploring the world. Also, when I found out that I have won the ‘national prize’ I was shocked but at the same time proud that I have won because of all the hard work that I have put in reading all those amazing books. I didn’t only enter the competition hoping to win the prize but I wanted to enter a different world of stories in my mind. The one thing people must remember is ‘nothing is better than learning and achieving’.
[Laurence, Mahbuba, Sanja and Susie]