The Reading Agency – Reading Ahead with ESOL

Project objectives

This project aims to encourage prisoners with English as a Second Language (ESOL) to read for pleasure, as a way of developing their language skills as well as their learner autonomy, knowledge and motivation. Specifically, the project will:

  • Support the use of The Reading Agency's 'Reading Ahead' reading challenge with prisoners with ESOL in 18 prisons, with potential for further scaling.
  • Provide support and guidance for prison librarians and tutors so that they are better able to encourage prisoners with ESOL to read.
  • Devise an ESOL-friendly introduction to using the prison library.
  • Compile an ESOL-friendly reading list to support Reading Ahead.

Project partner

The Reading Agency is a charity whose mission is to inspire more people to read more. It runs several different reading programmes in partnerships with public libraries, schools, prisons, workplaces, publishers and the media. Its Reading Ahead programme has been run in 120 prisons across the country.

About the project

The Reading Agency's work will reach 900 prisoners with English as a Second Language, with the potential to scale to a total of 120 institutions where the charity works. Participating prisoners will be supported to pick six texts, appropriate for their ability, and to read, review and rate them in a special reading diary. The programme will also include a 'talking activity' through which the participants will be encouraged to discuss their reading with other learners in order to develop oral fluency. On completion of the programme they will receive a pocket dictionary and thesaurus. Recent evaluations of the Reading Ahead programme show that short term changes include:

  • Increased confidence in reading ability.
  • Increased enjoyment of reading.
  • Improved reading skills.

Participating prison staff will be better resourced to improve delivery and have greater confidence in working with prisoners with English as a Second Language.

To find out more please contact Genevieve Clarke on