Education & Family

Best-selling author Andy McNab appointed CBE for literacy work

Andy McNab Image copyright NEIL SPENCE
Image caption Andy McNab in an official publicity shot

Best-selling author Andy McNab has been appointed CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for his work promoting adult literacy.

The Bravo Two Zero author is a literacy ambassador for The Reading Agency and has written several of the charity's Quick Read titles for young adults.

He described himself as "absolutely amazed" when he heard about the honour.

As a teenage recruit he had never read a book and says learning to read in the army changed his life.

McNab did not perhaps get the best start in life, being found in a Harrods carrier bag on the steps of a London hospital.

He was, at one point, in juvenile detention for petty crime, and had a reading age of about 11 when he joined the army.

Military education

"All the good stuff would have never happened without the good education that I got, whether I liked it or not, in the military," he told the BBC.

He said he would never have imagined receiving an honour for his literacy work and when the envelope arrived, he thought it was a bill.

He joined the infantry in 1976 and became a member of the SAS eight years later.

By the time he left in 1993 he was the British Army's most decorated serving soldier.

He has written about his experiences in the SAS in three best-selling books, one of which, Bravo Two Zero, is the highest-selling war book of all time, according to his publisher.

He began working with the charity about eight years ago, going into prisons, army bases, workplaces and schools to give talks about his experiences, both as a soldier and as an author, and to encourage people to take up reading to boost their literacy and general education.

"I will go around and talk to anybody who is stupid enough to listen," he told the BBC.

"If you can get the parents into the habit of reading, there is a trickle down to the kids.

"A lot of businesses are really supportive of trying to get the reading skills of the workforce up."

He is a big supporter of the charity's Six Book Challenge which aims to get adults hooked on reading.

He believes his own experiences with the criminal justice system help him connect when talking to prisoners about boosting their literacy.

"I understand what it's like and how the system works."

To date, there are 35,000 prisoners on the charity's reading schemes, he says.

He believes better literacy can boost ex-prisoners' employment chances and reduce the risk of reoffending.

"Knowledge gives you power and opportunity," he argues.

In his talks in jails, he tells inmates: "If I can do it, you can do it. All you have to do is give it a go."

Overall, some 11% of the honours have gone to people involved in education.

They include dozens of head teachers and school governors as well as academics. There is also a British Empire medal for Effie Walker, a school crossing patrol warden in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute.

She started her job at Colgrain Primary school when it opened in 1973.

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