Pictured: (left to right) Uxbridge College Principal Laraine Smith, students Samima Begum, Rebecca Morgan, Tai Jin James Ong and Aidin Kazenizadeh and Information & Resources Manager, Suba Dickerson.

At the special reception hosted by Frances Osborne, The Reading Agency launched Reading Ahead 2015-16 and unveiled a new report to literacy policymakers including Skills Minister Nick Boles MP, its author ambassadors Martina Cole and young adult author Bali Rai, and publishers, funders and other charities.

Reading Ahead, formerly known as the Six Book Challenge, challenges participants to pick six reads of their choice – including online content, newspaper and magazine articles as well as books such as Quick Reads – and to record, rate and review them in order to get a certificate. Uxbridge College embraced the scheme and received a Gold Award with 204 students completing the Six Book Challenge last academic year.  This success led to the honour of being selected to represent the scheme at Downing Street.

Laraine Smith, Principal, said: “It has been a huge success for us, engaging a large number of students in extensive reading. Staff from many different curriculum areas across the college are involved in rolling it out: it has really been a whole-college success story for us.        

The group of Uxbridge College students past and present -- Tai Jin James Ong; Rebecca Morgan; Samima Begum and Aidin Kazenizadehmet author Bali Rai at the Downing Street reception.

"I know that reading changes lives,” commented Bali Rai. “From schools and colleges, to prisons and beyond, I've seen the positive effect that a love of reading can have. A well-read nation is a successful one, so Reading Ahead benefits us all."

Student Rebecca Morgan, 19, came to Uxbridge College without any qualifications. She took part in the 2015 Six Book Challenge before sitting her GCSEs and gaining a B in English. She said:  "The best thing for me about doing the Six Book Challenge was the GCSE English grade I got. I had never read a whole book beforehand in my life: I was not a big reader, but it got me reading. If you want to get GCSE English definitely do this challenge; it will help you immensely." Rebecca is now studying for A Levels and aims to go to university. 

Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Reading is a vital skill and we are committed to ensuring our young people are the most literate in Europe. I therefore applaud the progress being made through Reading Ahead and would encourage as many people as possible to give it their support.” 

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency said: Reading Ahead builds on the successes of the Six Book Challenge and is designed to both inspire people to get started on their reading journey and then to help them keep reading throughout their lives. The impact research we have done on this programme has shown just how powerful it can be in building people’s skills, confidence and enjoyment of reading; I am particularly pleased that it has proven so valuable for young people, at a time when many of them will be planning their careers and deciding what path to take. I look forward to seeing how participation will change many more people’s lives in the months and years ahead.”

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