Toe by Toe in Prisons

Toe By Toe in Prisons and The Shannon Trust

For 14 years  Toe By Toe in Prisons helped thousands of UK and Irish prisoners to overcome their reading problems.

The Shannon Trust and Toe By Toe collaborated to introduce an innovative Reading Program into UK and Irish prisons. This included implementing Toe By Toe‘s innovative ‘Buddy System’. This employs more able prisoners as mentors who help less able prisoners to read.

(For more on Toe By Toe‘s Buddy System, click this link Toe By Toe Buddy System).

Stephen Shaw, the UK Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, considered:

“What has been the single best thing introduced in the last ten years? My money would be on the Toe By Toe reading scheme sponsored by the Shannon Trust. The simple but brilliant idea behind Toe By Toe is to recruit prisoners who are literate to help those who are not. By my estimate, several thousand prisoners have now learnt how to read as a result.”  (October 2007)

Pat’s Bible – Toe By Toe

In this short video, a prisoner – Pat – describes how his life is transformed after learning to read studying Toe By Toe in prison.

 * Follow this link to watch a fuller, more in-depth video of Toe By Toe in Prisons – Documentary Video

Survey Results of using Toe By Toe in UK Prisons

For fourteen years The Shannon Trust provided free copies of Toe By Toe to any prison that adopted the Toe By Toe Reading Plan. This included the vast majority of prisons within England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In many schools in the UK the Toe By Toe Buddy System encourages older students who are more fluent readers to mentor younger students studying Toe By Toe. This builds up the self-esteem of both the mentor and learner. The buddy system was also used successfully in prisons where literate offenders used Toe By Toe to teach prisoners with limited reading skills in short daily sessions.

The results were impressive. In 2014, in a snapshot survey conducted by the Shannon Trust, 85 per cent of 778 prisoners felt their literacy skills were improving. Since 2001 the Toe By Toe system has significantly improved the reading skills of thousands of prisoners.

The Shannon Trust is a charity dedicated to improving the literacy skills of prisoners. The trust continues to operate and we fully commend their work.

Testimonials in Praise of Toe By Toe

Best-selling author of the Harry Potter books JK ROWLING considers Toe By Toe  as

Toe By Toe in Prisons

JK Rowling Praises Toe By Toe in Prisons

“One of the most important books I’ve ever signed. Learning to read represents a significant turning in anyone’s life, and may be the one thing that makes a difference to help people in prison turn their lives around”

JK ROWLING inspecting the success of Toe By Toe working with dyslexic prisoners at HMP Edinburgh in 2008


Nick Hardwick praises Toe By Toe

Nick Hardwick praises Toe By Toe

Chairman of the UK Prison Parole Board Nick Hardwick praises Toe By Toe

“At a time when politicians and policy makers are looking to try and break the cycle of reoffending, Toe By Toe is something we know works”


What is Toe By Toe? The solution to reading difficulties






What is Toe By Toe? The solution to reading difficulties


Success stories

Toe By Toe works with and not against my education provider and I truly believe it provides a better opportunity for the offenders in reducing their risk of re-offending and gaining further education or employment on release.”

Rob Davis, Governing Governor, HMP Chelmsford

“The Shannon Trust Reading Plan using Toe By Toe really does perform miracles. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, even though it meant coming to prison to learn to read.”

Prisoner at a large ‘Category C’ prison in the West Midlands

“I feel very proud of myself that I have taken this bad time in my life to study Toe By Toe  I am making the best of it by trying to give back to others and by bettering myself.”

Learner who became a mentor HMP Pentonville

princess-annePrincess Anne discusses the Toe By Toe-Shannon Trust Reading Plan with a Toe By Toe  mentor and prison officer Lisa Dowsett on a visit to HMYOI Portland, 2010david-cameronEx-UK Prime Minister David Cameron praises Toe By Toe  in Prisons