Gatehouse Books - Literacy & ESOL specialist. Need help? Email or call us on 01925 267778

Prisons and YOIs

Yes We Can Read is used in prisons and YOIs by education tutors, peer mentors and volunteers who work one-to-one.   

    • Yes We Can Read develops reading for meaning and fun from the start, so the learner will be keen to continue and participate in the prison education programme.
    • The programme requires no training or helpline for the coach - just pick it up and go.
    • It is a flexible programme. If one peer mentor is released or gives up coaching, another can take over seamlessly  by following the clear and simple instructions.
    • Most importantly, Yes We Can Read is a transportable programme. If the learner is released, they can hand Yes We Can Read to a friend, relative or neighbour on the outside, who can take over seamlessly, if they follow the clear and simple instructions.


CASE STUDY: Literacy in Lockdown ‐ HMP Winchester
Prisoners Learning to Read During a Global Pandemic. A Case Study of Best Practice


Praise for Yes We Can Read from the prisons community

“J looks forward to his reading sessions. He is making very good progress and appears to be retaining what he learns. The coach instructions are very clear, practical and very reassuring. The tips are excellent. I really like the ‘can do’ ethos of the book. The pattern repetition in the sentences is very, very clever. It gives the reader the opportunity to read fluently and confidently early in the learning journey. “

“Every time we turn a page, I understand more about the genius of Yes We Can Read.”

“The big plus of Yes We Can Read is that it makes learning to read fun. Whole sentences are presented early in the book. Unshackled by the straightjacket of any strict grid system, Coach and Learner have more opportunity to take control of the learning and easily adapt it to suit the learner’s needs.”

“Yes We Can Read is a book which facilitates peer-to-peer learning. The idea is that anyone who can read can use the tool to teach somebody who cannot. The results are startling.... Peer-to-peer learning is arguably the most effective way to boost skills among prisoners. It removes the barriers created by an uncomfortable classroom and teachers whom the inmates often cannot relate to.”
Caroline Dinenage, MP, reported in Hansard

“I am a huge fan of the project, which has offered an excellent and most importantly flexible resource to help Holloway women to read. We have a very transient and diverse population, comprising many nationalities and reading abilities.Yes We Can Read Inside has enabled women readers to coach others, without the need for training, and allows the new reader to continue after release. This is a most powerful tool that encourages desistance from offending and key to all prison Governors’ aims.”
Julia Killick, Governor of HMP Holloway

“Far too many prisoners have poor levels of literacy and projects to help improve literacy and encourage prisoners who can read strongly to help those who cannot read or who are poor readers will be beneficial to all prisoners involved... The Yes We Can Read Inside project will help encourage and inspire more prisoners to improve their reading skills and take a step towards being reintegrated back into society.”
Priti Patel, MP

“This is an imaginative, effective literacy programme, which has my full support. People who can’t read feel ashamed and disempowered. The impact of this scheme is immeasurable and gives prisoners a real chance at rehabilitation.”
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

“I know from experience that a good book can change the way you think about life. Prison may be a punishment but it is also a time for reflection and to focus on change. Those who are unable to read are significantly limited in their endeavours to do both. As patron of The Reader Organisation, a charity devoted to the promotion of shared reading and which runs prison reading groups, I have witnessed first hand the impact and effect reading can have on prisoners who can read. The Yes We Can Read Inside project is a superlative initiative which will enable those in prison who struggle with literacy to take part fully in their own rehabilitation. In prison, self-help and peer support is the best help of all. I sincerely hope this application for funding receives the most serious consideration.”
Erwin James, Guardian columnist and former prisoner 

“The Yes We Can Read programme is a brilliant tool for Holloway. It’s a great way to empower women to take responsibility for supporting others in their learning, and for emergent readers to be responsible for improving their literacy at their own pace. Mini, informal lessons are springing up around the prison with mentors helping others to overcome the obstacles to becoming readers.”
Julia Spicer, Prison Librarian

“When I was in Dorchester Prison I was shocked by the number of inmates who couldn’t read. When I left I found the perfect solution: Yes We Can Read. So I set up a charity which helps anyone and everybody in Gosport to become either a coach or a learner. The sooner Yes We Can Read gets into every prison, the better!”
Andy Paradise, Founder of Read & Grow

“Whilst in prison I attempted to help prisoners through a reading scheme but it was too difficult to deliver. Yes We Can Read would have been perfect as the teacher and pupil are self-contained and independent, it can be delivered on the wing, and a new coach can take over the teaching if necessary. I am teaching a service user from Portsmouth probation and it is an amazing experience, giving the lifelong gift of reading and changing lives.”
Frankie Owens, award-winning author of The Little Book Of Prison and Trustee of Read & Grow

“Peer to peer learning is the best possible way for people in prison to learn to read. This project has the potential to create so many confident new readers; and being a confident reader is a vital first step in leading a law-abiding life. I have used Yes We Can Read and have found it an incredibly powerful tool in supporting learners. It is extremely well-suited to the prison environment.”
Julie Carthy, former prison Skills for Life co-ordinator and Shannon Trust Development Manager

“Yes We Can Read always works so well in hostels, so it will really fly in prisons where inmates have lots of time to coach or learn to read.”
Rob Frier, Manager of the Passage Hostel, Victoria, and leader of the Westminster campaign to place Yes We Can Read in hostels for the homeless, where the residents who can read teach those who can’t.