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Reading Friends

The power of poetry

Written by Koren Calder
26 June 2019

Reading Friends has been working in HMP YOI Cornton Vale prison since 2018. Cornton Vale is the national facility for female offenders for both remand and convicted prisoners in Scotland. Find out how our library coordinators, Morag and Helen, have been running Reading Friends.

Our work in Corton Vale

Reading Friends activity in Corton Vale prison is going strong, and the groups are becoming increasingly popular. Activities include reading, writing poetry, and word searches.

Session one: Our pet poems

In the first session, Reading Friends at Corton Vale wrote poems about their pets, which Morag typed up for the group to read aloud.

“It was amazing really, they were so pleased with themselves, one girl was hoping to make a frame for hers and give it to her mum for her birthday!”

Reading Friends co-ordinator, Helen

Remember all the good days Kia

Black Blonde and fair,

And lived without a care.

Bold as brass you were Kia,

And you’d stand and stare,

You would protect by honour,

You were a star Kia!

You are missed all the time

You made us laugh and cry

Remember all the good days Kia

Reading materials that are working well in prison settings

Our Reading Friends volunteers have found that Scottish poetry is a particularly helpful tool to engage interest. The women are especially enthused in reading aloud when they add accents to the poems they read aloud to the rest of the group. Beginning with word searches and colouring in also leads into reading books to each other such as young adult Quick Reads and Harry Potter books.

Reading Friends volunteers, Morag and Helen lead sessions that involve activities, including making mice out of old books. This was a great success even the art teacher joined in! Our volunteers have found that Quick Reads are also a great tool to get people into reading again and have since received requests for specific stories for future sessions.

Future opportunities

The opportunities to engage people in Corton Vale have also been assisted by Vale Mail who have been supportive in advertising activities internally, and we hope that more people will be encouraged to take part in Reading Friends. Another key development has been the number of people getting in touch who have English as a second language, and our Reading Friends volunteers have been in touch with the Adult Learning Team and has received pointers from them on how best to deal with this.

“It is becoming evident that some of the older lady volunteers ‘on our books’ are keen to take on the role of reading together with some of the younger girls who are in prison, especially those who have English as a second language. They feel that this will help them to feel less isolated.”

Reading Friends volunteer, Morag

“The introduction of the Reading Friends project into prison education is definitely helping to not only reduce feelings of isolation but also provide a platform for the women to support each other, where needed, to improve their reading abilities by reading together within a facilitated Reading Friends group.”

Koren Calder, Reading Communities Outreach Manager at Scottish Book Trust

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Find out more about our work in Scotland, and donate to ensure that Reading Friends can have an impact on more people accross the UK.

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