McNab, whose latest thriller, Down to the Wire, was released earlier this month, continues: “I am supporting the Daily Express’s Books That Change Lives campaign because getting books into the hands of the people who need them most is the best way to do it.” difference between being the kid who stays at the bottom of the class, because they’re embarrassed that they can’t learn, or getting the job that pays the most because they can fill out their job application.
“But reading gives you much more than knowledge and power. It brings empathy and imagination. Being able to travel anywhere in the universe and at any time in history to learn about other people and their situations helps you understand what lies beyond your own world.
“It helps you realize that we are all very much alike. It’s the difference between being able to read a bedtime story to your kids or not.”
Yesterday, acclaimed historian and novelist Dame Antonia Fraser launched our campaign to help promote the power of reading in the hardest-to-reach places.
Express Editor-in-Chief Gary Jones said: “Books and reading are crucial in so many ways, so I’m delighted that Express was able to support Give A Book for our Christmas 2022 charity drive. remarkable and inspiring work of small miracles and I trust our generous readers will show their support.”
Your support means the charity will be able to distribute even more books to schools, prisons, mother and child units and to underprivileged children.
McNab can directly relate to the impact books can have on marginalized people. When he joined the army in 1972 at the age of 16, he was found to be “functionally illiterate” with a reading age of 11.
Having been abandoned as a baby in a Harrods shopping bag and arrested for a series of robberies while growing up with foster parents, he read his first book during basic training.
“I was in a classroom, along with 20 other child soldiers, with an old captain’s sweat standing in front,” he recalls today. “He said, ‘You’re not stupid, you’re just uneducated. But, starting today, all that changes.’”
McNab, who would become the most decorated serving soldier in the British Army when he left the SAS in 1993.
The first book he read was a Janet and John story aimed at elementary school children. Twenty years later, she wrote the best-selling war story of all time, with Bravo Two Zero having sold over 10 million copies to date in the UK alone.
For the last 20 years, the hero of SAS has opened the horizons of non-readers.
“Reading gives you knowledge and knowledge gives you power,” says McNab, a tireless literacy campaigner who was awarded the CBE for services to literacy and charity in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honors List.
“I visit prisons, schools and workplaces, and see the difference reading has made.
“Recently, I met a bus driver who couldn’t even read traffic signs. He was driving only from memory, which caused problems when there were road works.
“But learning to read didn’t just help him at work. He can now read to his grandchildren because he started reading by sharing the same bedtime storybooks.
“Some of the inmates I’ve met couldn’t even read a newspaper and after starting to read they have become evangelicals.
“It’s not just because they knew that once they were released from prison they had to compete for jobs, but they realized that nothing was wrong with them and that they weren’t stupid, as they had been told.”
In Leicester, he met a council worker who couldn’t apply for promotion because he couldn’t read and couldn’t fill out the application form. He put his arm in a sling and went to answer the questions verbally; that old trick.
“But the council found out and now they have taught him to read. It has been life changing for him. It doesn’t matter what you read; be it a book, a billboard or a magazine.
“Learning to read gets things done, and reading means you can do more of the things you want to do, instead of being told what to do by people with more power than you.
“Books are a change agent in many ways.”
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