ADULT community college students have been commended for completing a reading challenge.

Southend mayor Chris Walker handed out certificates to 80 of more than 165 Southend Adult Community College students who have completed this year’s “Six Book Challenge”.

Some spoke of reading six novels, articles, poems or other pieces of writing and documenting their experiences in a diary at the college, in Ambleside Drive, Southchurch, which hopes for a gold award from the Reading Agency, the charity that coordinates the scheme, as so many students took part.

A short film shot at the Forum Southend library in Elmer Square to promote the challenge was shown at the ceremony, which Westcliff jazz trumpeter Digby Fairweather also attended, along with Echo editor Colin Channon.

Mr Fairweather, a trained librarian, said: “As the Southend Six Book Challenge champion I’d like to offer my sincerest congratulations to all the gifted people who accepted their certificates.

“It was a memorable day, and so wonderful for me to meet up with the new friends who have joined me as part of the national community of readers.

“I think the Six Book Challenge is great”

Southend Adult Community College principal Stephen Lay said: “Southend libraries and Southend Adult Community College provide a great supportive partnership, and the six book challenge is a highly successful method of engaging existing and potential learners in reading for pleasure as part of their wider skills development.”

Students rise to the occasion

IMAGINE yourself in a foreign country. One where you don’t understand the language. You can’t read signs in the street, so you don’t know where you’re going.

You can’t read shop signs. You can’t read newspapers or leaflets. You feel lost and disoriented.

That feeling is shared by one in six adults who live in our communities.

People who, for all manner of reasons, have never learned how to read.

That is the reason why Southend Adult Community College launched a campaign to encourage people to get reading, and to understand how much fun the printed work can be.

More than 80 adults were guests at a special presentation at the college after successfully completing the Six Books Challenge.

The challenge is simple: to get people reading six books, and to encourage less-confident readers to enjoy books by choosing them, completing them, and then talking and writing about them.

The challenge is a national initiative led by the Reading Agency, but Southend is recognised as holding one of the strongest and most successful in the country.

Mayor Chris Walker presented the certificates in a ceremony hosted by jazz musician and

Six Books Challenge ambassador Digby Fairweather.

Mr Fairweather, who revealed he was a librarian before hitting the music big time, said: “I was delighted to be asked to help out with this remarkable initiative, and to get people to share my own enthusiasm for reading. I’m loving being involved.

Deborah Hyde of the Reading Agency, who also attended the presentation, said: “People just don’t realise how isolating it can be if you cannot read.

“This scheme helps people to start reading by themselves, and they find they enjoy it and read more. As well as helping them with day-to-day activities, they find they enjoy a book and begin reading for pleasure.”