The Guardian
Tuesday 31 January 2017

Andy McNab says joyless education is damaging poor children’s literacy

Bravo Two Zero author, who didn’t learn to read until he was 16, says his experience working in schools shows that a box-ticking approach to tuition inhibits reading skills of the less privileged

Government literacy policy that emphasises grammar over enjoyment is discriminating against poor children and has contributed to England’s position at the bottom of a ranking of reading ability in developed nations, according to SAS soldier-turned-bestselling writer Andy McNab.

The Bravo Two Zero author, a reading ambassador for the literacy charity the Reading Agency, said children in failing schools were hit by a double whammy because teachers had no time to encourage the enjoyment of reading because their time was taken up “box-ticking” for Ofsted inspections and dealing with students’ basic needs. “The whole educational system is so clogged now that there is no time for teachers to encourage kids, and the enjoyment of reading is lost,” he said.

As a result, he said, children were leaving school with poor literacy and worse. Citing “failing” schools visited as part of his Reading Agency work, he said teachers’ time was taken up addressing the immediate needs of children from deprived backgrounds, who arrived in class dirty and hungry. He added: “By the time they were ready to start learning they had lost a third of the working day, so there was no time for them to just enjoy reading.”

McNab is a regular on the school circuit, and his work promoting literacy was recognised last year with the inaugural Ruth Rendell award. Teachers, he said, were frustrated, because they were being prevented from inspiring students with a passion for learning and reading. “There is so much compulsory stuff in the curriculum that it becomes like ticking boxes,” he added.

McNab, who did not learn to read until he joined the Army at 16, said that while the prescriptive curriculum was not a problem for children who were exposed to books at home, it left those from deprived backgrounds disadvantaged because they had few role models outside school to encourage them to read. “Kids from working-class families are being failed because they don’t come from a middle-class culture where everyone reads,” he said.

His comments come before Thursday’s launch of Quick Reads, a series of six short books..(..)

Go here to read the full article in The Guardian


If I can just get one kid to pick up a book, or give school another chance when otherwise they wouldn’t, then I feel that it was all worth it. ~Andy McNab


The winner of the inaugural Ruth Rendell Award for the writer who has done the most to raise literacy levels in the UK, tells us why adult literacy is a cause very close to his heart.

1. Did you have any idea you were in contention for the Ruth Rendell Award, or was it a complete surprise? What does it mean to you to win it?

The first I knew was when I was told I was on the shortlist. I felt incredibly proud and also grateful to all the people who had suggested and supported my nomination. I never for a second thought I’d win, though. It was enough to just be nominated.

2. Why is literacy a cause so close to your heart, and in what ways do you see yourself as most effective in championing it?

It is something I feel really passionate about because it changed my life. As a child I was in and out of schools, never engaging and never switching on and bothering. When I joined the army (straight out of Borstal as a nearly 17-year-old) I had the reading age of an 11-year-old. It was the army that taught me to read and write, and just as importantly, showed me the power of education as an enabler, an enhancer and a launchpad. I go into schools, workplaces and prisons as often as I can and the message I want to give them is simple: You just need to switch on and start taking advantage of all the educational opportunities being offered to you. What education does is give you knowledge, and knowledge is power, power to make your own decisions and do what you want with your life. Frankly if I can do it, anyone can.

3. Would you share with us a recent project or a case history you have been involved with which has particularly gladdened your heart?

There are plenty of these. But one that has stuck with me was going to a youth referral centre in Yorkshire, for kids who had been excluded from mainstream schools and to a great extent been ‘given up on’. They had also pretty much given up on themselves. They weren’t the easiest audience, that’s for sure, but I’ve been there, I know what they are fighting against, I know what support they need and aren’t getting at home or in the community, and perhaps no one had talked to them before who had stood in their shoes. So we chatted about a few war stories, but also about my experiences of education and what reading has allowed me to do with my life, I signed a few books for them and left. A few weeks later I had an email to say that they had started their own book club. Not set up by the staff, but instigated and organised by them. That really made it all worthwhile. But the thing is, it’s not a numbers game, I’m not in it to convert the masses. If I can just get one kid to pick up a book, or give school another chance when otherwise they wouldn’t, then I feel that it was all worth it.

4. What particular projects will you be championing this year, and where will your work take you?

I’m off to the North Pole quite soon. I did a 100 nautical mile trek to the South Pole last year to raise money and awareness for the Reading Agency, and I think I’ve got the polar bug. Either that or it’s messed with my mind! That will be taking up a fair bit of the first part of this year, and then there is a bit of writing to do (my editor will start hyperventilating at that – he’s expecting the book to be finished by Easter!). By the end of the summer I hope to be back on the road doing a bit of promotion for the book but equally importantly getting back to schools, juvenile detention centres, prisons etc. to start bending some ears again. I am an ambassador for the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme (formerly Six Book Challenge) and I do as much as I can getting into places on their behalf as that is a fantastic way to get people engaged. For people who have never had any kind of accreditation, fulfilling the requirements to receive that kind of certificate means a lot. And it really can change lives.

5. ALCS News is read by a broad spectrum of published writers: is there anything we can all do as writers to help to support the cause of adult literacy?

I think supporting organisations such as the Reading Agency and the National Literacy Trust with their campaigns is incredibly important. We are in a privileged position as authors. One practical way is the Quick Reads series, which are short (around 15,000 words) novellas or non-fiction books written for ’emerging’ readers. There is a specific style sheet and strict rules on how to write, and the hope is that they are a platform for readers to then go on and read more challenging works. That is definitely something worth getting involved with if the opportunity arises. Then of course there is supporting places like local libraries and also local independent bookshops. We have influence and the ability to engage people. Let’s use it!

Source: ALCS website



World Book Day: 9 tips to help your child learn to read by SAS author Andy McNab

Andy McNab didn’t read his first book until he was 17. Now the bestselling author of over 20 books, he’s on a mission to get more kids reading.

“As long as you read, you get knowledge. With knowledge, you get power. Then you can do things you want to do in life,” says Andy, himself a father.

He came to public prominence in 1993 when he published his account of the Special Air Service (SAS) patrol Bravo Two Zero in 1991.

A proflic author, who enjoys everything from thrillers to Dickens, his own experience is proof that it’s never too late to start reading.

“The first book I read was in the army. It was Janet and John book ten. Afterwards I felt really proud, I’d actually enjoyed it too.”

So if you’re struggling to get your little ones to put down their screens and take up a book, here are Andy’s top nine survival tips for parents.

1) Lead by example

Reading is infectious. If your child sees you reading, they are more likely to pick up a book. And once you get into a good book, it’s like a drug.

2) Don’t be a sergeant major
Let your children read what they like. Don’t shove a book down a kids throat. If they don’t like it, they won’t read it. It could be a comic or a cartoon strip, as long as they’re reading they are learning.

3) Seen the movie? Now read the book

That film they loved at the cinema? That TV adaptation they were hooked on? Ask your child it they knew it was a book and suggest they give it a go to see the difference between the two.

4) Don’t break the bank
Books can be expensive, especially if you haven’t got a library nearby. Luckily publishers are realising this. I support a series of books called Quick Reads. They cost a quid each and are great for children and adults alike – they are brilliant for building confidence. So money is no excuse not to bury your nose in a good book.

5) Read aloud
Making time to read aloud to your children is imperative! Einstein was asked how you make children intelligent and he said read them stories and then read them more stories.
Being read to allows kids to spark up their imagination. Research shows that even if they drift off and you keep talking, unconsciously they are sill carving new neural pathways.

6) Trick them into it
Few kids want to do what their parents tell them to do. So telling them to turn off the Playstation isn’t going to work. But how about suggesting they read a book of cheats for their favourite games? Some of them are 40,000 words long! They won’t even realise that what they’re doing is reading.

7) Appeal to their passions
If your child loves fashion, suggest they reads the Devil Wears Prada. If a child finds the subject matter interesting, they’ll read the book.

8) Explain how reading is a life skill
I’ve had children say to me ‘but footballers don’t need to read’. But yes they do. Some of those contracts are 120 pages long. Do you really want someone else deciding that for you? Reading is a lifeskill we all need.

9) Don’t categorise books!
Dickens is great. If you took away the coal fires and put in central heating, the characters would still remain the same. But the classics aren’t for everyone. Don’t categorise a book by class. Read what you enjoy, not what you think you should be reading.

The 2016 Galaxy Quick Reads are bite-sized books written by best-selling authors for £1. Available now from bookshops, supermarkets and online or libraries nationwide.

Source: Mirror.co.uk


After ‘The Grey Man’, ‘Last Year Another Soldier’  and ‘Today Everything Changes’ Andy McNab writes another Quick Read: ‘On The Rock’.

Quick Reads celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2016 with a diverse collection of titles which will be published on 4 February.

Quick Reads 2016

Quick Reads 2016

Source: The Reading Agency website


6 feb 2014

Quick Reads presents ‘An Open Book’, a short film that celebrates the power of reading. ‘An Open Book’ features a host of celebrities and authors, including Lily Cole, Myleene Klass and Andy McNab, who talk openly and passionately about their relationship with reading — both good and bad.

Andy is in the film twice so watch until the end!


You can hear Andy read from his contribution to the Quick Reads Project, his book ‘Today Everything Changes’.

Go here to the BBC website Skillswise