Fantasy author Marcus Alexander inspires students to Read Ahead

Fantasy author Marcus Alexander urged students to “read like a beast” and “not be boring” at the Uxbridge College Reading Ahead 2017 awards ceremonies. During his dynamic performances at the Uxbridge and Hayes Learning Resource Centres (LRC), The Keeper of the Realms series author talked about the many benefits of reading, and shared tales of his life including eating monkey brains and grasshoppers, travelling the world, taking part in extreme sports, and the painful experience of ruptured biceps and snapped pectoralis muscles through doing gymnastics.

 The writer, who also presented books and awards to students and signed autographs for them, was joined by Reading Ahead Programme Manager Genevieve Clarke from the national charity The Reading Agency, who also congratulated students. Students from the Year 2 BTEC Extended Diploma in Music also took part in the two events, providing entertainment.

 Marcus Alexander talked about his life and his love of reading, which he said began with Dr Seuss books and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and had recently alighted on the work of Machiavelli. Each of the students who had completed the Reading Ahead programme was presented with a book, chosen from among titles including one of the The Keeper Of The Realms trilogy books and the graphic novel Persepolis by Iranian author Marjane Satrapi, which was showcased at World Book Night, also run by the Reading Agency.

Shelley Cawley, Information and Learning Resources Manager at Uxbridge College, who co-ordinated Reading Ahead at Uxbridge College this year, said: “The students’ achievements this year have been amazing given that so many had to work so hard to improve their literacy skills in order to complete the programme. It was a real inspiration to have Marcus Alexander with us and to hear his views on literacy,  which echo what we say here in the LRC about how reading supports mental health, means better pay and has many more benefits too. He also gave a valuable life lesson in taking risks and challenging yourself. A big thank you too to the Reading Agency for making it possible for us to participate in Reading Ahead again this year.”

 Genevieve Clarke said: “We are delighted that Uxbridge College continues to support Reading Ahead so strongly.  The college’s achievement proves that the programme can build confidence, increase skills and improve exam results.  It’s brilliant to have such enthusiasm for reading from students and staff across the college.”  

 A total of around 600 Uxbridge College students are hoped to complete the national programme this year, which requires them to read six books and to write a review of each. They are then given feedback on each review by a member of staff - which will adding up to more than 3,600 books and reviews if the College hits its target.

This year Reading Ahead at Uxbridge College has seen a higher proportion of participants from courses and teaching areas where literacy skills need to be improved. Last year ELT (English Language Teaching) students - whose first language is not English - made up 10% of the completers, but this year make up around 37% of completers. The majority of the remaining 63% were Functional Skills L1 and L2 - students improving basic literacy or numeracy - who have found that taking part has helps prepare them for their next level. A total of nine students from the Foundation School also completed.