Our groups are voluntary and informal. They encourage reading and develop discussion skills and sociability.
There are no tests, no certificates and no right or wrong answers. The groups are open-ended so prisoners join at any time and remain members as long as they choose. PRG relies on funding to provide members with new copies of each book chosen.
‘In the reading group everyone is given a voice, all have an equal say. For one hour a month I feel that my opinion is valid, that others care what I say.’
In 2022 we supported 48 groups in 43 prisons with over 3500 books.
For everyone, becoming a reader is about choice so our groups choose what they read and discuss. New copies are provided by PRG for members to keep or pass on to others. Book choices are varied and often ambitious. See Resources for examples.
‘Who’d have thought we could spend all this time just talking and arguing about a book?’
There is no single model for our groups. Target membership may be experienced readers or very hesitant ones, older prisoners or those with mental health or addiction problems.
Groups may meet weekly, monthly or something in between.
‘Being in the over 50s group has enabled me to make friends and talk about books, something I didn’t do before’
Reading the Way for emergent readers
GUIDELINES: These are for librarians and volunteers or readers inside who are keen to get a group going and run it themselves.
Where possible volunteers help to run the groups.
Members welcome outsiders and the work is challenging and rewarding. PRG provides mentoring support and we welcome enquiries.
‘Perhaps most rewarding is watching shy prisoners gradually emerge to talk about books with passion and understanding. It’s a great feeling and I leave the prison on a high’
PRG works through prison libraries and we rely on the commitment and dedication of library staff who organise things inside and sometimes also run the groups. Above all, they act as champions for PRG throughout the prison.
‘We argue a bit, laugh and try to listen to each other. It is undoubtedly the best part of my job and I come away from the group thinking, Wow, I get paid to do that’
Connection – books connect us to family and friends, to the wider world and to ourselves
Challenge -our groups encourage members to read more widely and confidently and to explore views and ideas with mutual respect.
Change – our groups promote relationships and skills over time and prisoners remain members for as long as they choose.