Six Book Challenge

Valerie Nicholson of Libraries NI encourages 'lapsed, reluctant or struggling' readers to pick up a book – or six

What is the Six Book Challenge?

The Six Book Challenge invites lapsed, reluctant or struggling readers to engage with books. The time it takes is not crucial – the important thing is that people are reading and enjoying it.

Where did the idea come from?

The Reading Agency, a charity which works with libraries and aims to inspire people to read more.

Do you have to sign up or register to take part?

Yes. You can sign up as a member of a group or on your own. Just ask at any public library in Northern Ireland. You will also have to register as a member of Libraries NI, so just bring identification with your name and address. When you have read your first book you'll get a reading diary to record titles and reviews if you wish. Then at the end you will get a certificate to celebrate your success.

Is there a set reading list or is it a 'free for all'?

We don't dictate what you should read, that would take the fun out of it! Picking your own great books is such an individual thing and a lovely way to spend half an hour. Or if you join as a group you can take turns to select the titles. We can certainly offer advice though, if you want or need it.

What do initiatives like this accomplish?

I am hoping that people who take part will find they grow a love of reading and realise what they have been missing. I'm talking about the kind of reading which makes you lose track of everything else and become engrossed in the story.

When life is a bit grim and the recession is depressing, reading can provide escape, give a bit of perspective and is firmly linked to improved mental health, lower anxiety, increased confidence and better memory skills.

What is the first book you will be reading?

It's The Borrower, by Rebecca Makkai. The main character is a children’s librarian, probably quite good at her job but very bored and a bit stuck in every avenue of her life until she goes on the run with a 10-year-old boy with issues…

What books you would recommend for anyone who can't choose?

There are great quick reads by well-known authors to get you back into the habit of picking up a book and realising you actually enjoy it. There are beautifully written books like The Misremembered Man by Christine McKenna and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Anne Weisgarbe, which was fascinating.

A biography is always interesting too, since I love to read about people trying crazy feats. I can stand or sit safely on the sidelines and allow them to risk life and limb for my entertainment. Libraries also offer ebooks which are so portable. Additionally audio books travel well in the car sound system and make a long journey seem much shorter.

All of this is free: all the benefits which reading will give you while you are immersed in a good book. Of course you can continue to use the library after the challenge is achieved and this will also be free.

Readers can find resources and other information relating to the Six Book Challenge at The Reading Agency website.