Top authors support prisoners' reading with Books Unlocked

04 Apr 2018
Books Unlocked NPR

Our Books Unlocked programme, which provides free copies of Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles for prisoners to read, discuss and keep, is being supported by several high-profile authors who have been making prison visits and taking part in National Prison Radio interviews.

Author Sarah Waters, who has written three Man Booker-shortlisted titles, is supporting Books Unlocked and inspiring participants to read more frequently and to consider writing themselves. Sarah’s shortlisted book The Little Stranger, which is due to be released as a film later this year, is on this year’s Books Unlocked book list and available for prison reading groups to read.

Sarah recorded an interview with National Prison Radio and also visited a reading group at women's prison HMP Styal who had recently read The Little Stranger. Sarah spoke with the women in the reading group about her book and more generally about her writing. 

The visit was hugely successful and the women participating in the reading group were delighted to meet Sarah and have the chance to ask questions. The interview and reading group discussion will be broadcasted by National Prison Radio alongside the audio serialisation of The Little Stranger in April. 

"I was thrilled to visit HMP Styal as part of the National Literacy Trust’s brilliant Books Unlocked programme. The lively, thoughtful women I met in the prison made it clear that reading has a hugely beneficial impact on life behind bars - that books can inform, console, inspire, and provide a much-needed sense of connection with the world outside the prison walls."

Sarah Waters

The success of Books Unlocked has meant that a number of our other author ambassadors have also given up their time to support our wider work with prisons and young offender institutions. 

Earlier this year authors Victoria Hislop and John O’Farrell visited HMP Brixton on separate occasions as special guests on National Prison Radio, and were interviewed by presenters who are current prisoners at HMP Brixton. 

Both shows were broadcasted across the prison estate, encouraging prisoners to read more for enjoyment and more broadly. Victoria discussed her bestselling title The Island and how to get started as an author. John spoke about the importance of news and being aware of current affairs, and about his time as a writer and contributor on programmes such as Have I Got News For You.

"I really enjoyed my visit to Brixton to be interviewed on National Prison Radio. I plan to go back and give some of my books to the prison library - including my novels in translation for prisoners for who English is not their first language. It was great to see the excellent work that the National Literacy Trust is doing in our prisons - and when I met HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the gala dinner it turned out we had recent visits to Brixton Prison to talk about!”

John O'Farrell