Books Unlocked

Books Unlocked NPR

Books Unlocked supports those in prisons and young offender institutions, as well as others in community settings such as schools and libraries, to read for enjoyment.

The books

Books Unlocked provides free copies of Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles for participants to read, discuss and keep.  The authors of these titles regularly visit prison and community reading groups as part of the programme. Books Unlocked is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation.

National Prison Radio

A key part of the Books Unlocked programme is our work with National Prison Radio. National Prison Radio is a free radio service broadcasting directly into almost 80,000 cells in prisons and young offender institutions across England and Wales. We work with them to serialise audiobooks of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles, as well as broadcasting author interviews. 


Find out more about National Prison Radio

The impact

Books Unlocked has been shown to:

  • Improve emotional wellbeing and confidence

    “Reading can be a way of relaxing, getting a better understanding of yourself, and helps me feel more positive.” - HMP Thameside

  • Encourage more and wider reading

    “I have been introduced to books that I would probably not have chosen, which would have been my loss.” - HMP Birmingham

  • Promote tolerance and empathy

    “It is always good to hear the opinion of others. It is also good to share the enthusiasm for a book and to feed off the enthusiasm of others. I think I have become more patient and more accepting of the opinions of others.” – HMP Lewes

  • Give participants books of their own

    “The most import[ant] aspect [of the programme] is, no doubt, the chance of having books handed to prisoners so we can read them in our cells. Sometimes people outside don’t realise about how important a book can be for a prisoner.” - HMP Thameside

Read an evaluation of Books Unlocked

Books Unlocked in the community

In 2015, we expanded Books Unlocked into local communities. Alongside our work in prisons and young offender institutions, we now work with community reading groups, libraries and schools to encourage them to read and share their thoughts on the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles.

 Participants’ thoughts on the books are then anonymously shared among all reading groups in the area. This allows different communities – whether in a library or a prison – to engage with the opinions and views of others.

If you'd like to take part in Books Unlocked, please email us.

Books Unlocked