“It’s enough to make Norman Stanley Fletcher choke on his porridge – hardened criminals are studying Latin and Greek to help with their reading.
Prisoners at three jails – including armed robbers, drug peddlers and those serving life – have taken part in a new trial to boost their vocabulary and reading skills.
The programme, which is already used in schools, helps those with low reading ability to decode words by breaking them down into their Latin and Greek components.
In the trial, prisoners improved their reading age by an average of 18 months.
During the sessions, they learned how English words often include elements derived from the ancient languages, and then used that knowledge to work out what the words meant.
In one example, the prisoners learned that ‘de-escalation’ means ‘the reduction of the intensity of a conflict’ and may be linked to the Latin word ‘scandere’, to climb.
The technique, Sound Training, was developed by a former teacher Katy Parkinson, and has been used successfully in more than 600 schools. Researcher Ellie Mulcahy, from the think-tank LKMco, who measured the effectiveness of the system, said: ‘The offenders found the Latin and Greek new and exciting and enjoyed the intellectual challenge.
‘They were even making up their own words and being able to say what that hypothetical word would mean, using their knowledge of Latin.’
The scheme could now be rolled out to more prisons. One prisoner said ‘I now find myself breaking down words as I read them.’
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