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Four ways innovative library projects

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Miranda McKearney talks about the Reading Agency and its work in the community to raise reading levels.

The Reading Agency is an independent charity whose mission is to inspire more people to read more. It believes in the power of reading to change people’s lives and the importance of public libraries.

The Reading Agency believes in everyone having equal opportunities to become a reader, and is at the forefront of innovation and cutting edge creative projects designed to encourage reading:

The Summer Reading Challenge

750,000 children aged four to 12 years are expected to take part in this year’s nationwide Summer Reading Challenge, run through the public library network. Children are encouraged to read six or more books during the holidays with rewards and a certificate for every child who completes the Challenge.

The Summer Reading Challenge helps you to read and it makes you want to read more. That’s really fun, and I like getting the certificate and medal at the end

Sulaimaan Lim, aged 11, from north London

Recent impact research identified good practice in five different local authorities: Brighton & Hove, Coventry, Manchester, Staffordshire and Wiltshire and found that the Challenge contributes to stemming the ‘summer holiday dip’ in reading achievement, as well as boosting children’s inclination to read at home and talk about books.

Miranda McKearney: “The Summer Reading Challenge is a great example of what The Reading Agency aims to do - to inspire more people to read more - and demonstrates what can be achieved when the Third Sector and libraries work together (an example of turning ‘Big Society’ rhetoric into reality). Harnessing the power of the voluntary sector, sharing best practice and promoting creativity will be vital for libraries’ future success.

“By 2012 we want to see a million children taking part. To achieve this we will need increased partnership working between schools and libraries, with every primary school putting the Challenge into their development plan and ensuring each child is signed up as a library member.”


HeadSpace sees libraries working in partnership with young people to create a library space designed by young people for young people. The Reading Agency works with local authorities to develop HeadSpaces in libraries and other local authority settings in partnership with young volunteers.

Before HeadSpace was established, I never read books but because we have chosen the books, I have got back into reading

Leesa Amin, HeadSpace Haslingden, Lancashire.

The project provides a model for delivering the national Library Youth Offer and is meeting the urgent need up and down the country for free, safe spaces where young people can take part in positive activities. It aims to encourage more teenagers to enjoy reading as a creative activity, and demonstrate that libraries are attractive and accessible places for them.

Miranda McKearney: “HeadSpace is part of our wider drive to transform the way young people engage with reading and libraries. To get on in life, young people need to become skilled readers. There are lots of barriers, but we know that their passion for reading can be ignited by meeting them on their terms.

“With so much competition for young people’s time and the rise of social media, the onus is on all of us - local authorities, schools, libraries, youth workers, charities and parents - to find innovative ways to inspire a love of reading.”

The Six Book Challenge

Over half of adults (56%) in the UK have literacy skills below the level of a good GCSE. The Six Book Challenge offers a creative new approach to improving literacy skills in a fun and accessible way.

The Six Book Challenge can open up all sorts of doors. I can’t really put into words how glad I am that I did it, and I’m still reading!

Ken Bakker, 39, who completed the Six Book Challenge at Bolton Community College

The Six Book Challenge is run through libraries, workplaces and adult learning providers and encourages less confident readers to read six books and record their reading in a diary. They are encouraged with incentives and rewarded with a certificate when they complete the Challenge. 9,000 adults took part in 2009, with 70% of UK library services running the challenge.

Miranda McKearney: “Our stubborn national skills problems show we need new ways to tackle low level literacy and it was for this reason that we launched the Six Book Challenge in 2008.”

“The Six Book Challenge shows how shared reading programmes across the whole library network can improve the library offer to the public, deliver outcomes on a huge scale and contribute to the vision of a more equal society through everyone having access to inspiring reading support and experiences.”

Reading Partners

Reading Partners is the national consortium of libraries and publishers, led by The Reading Agency. It started as a two-year pilot with five publishers and has grown into a real force for change, now involving 34 publishers. This success has inspired an equivalent children’s scheme.

I think it’s great that the general public are given the opportunity to meet authors and pose their own questions at free events like this

Geraldine Knights, Kent-based library reading group member, Kazuo Ishiguro event

For publishers, Reading Partners has brought more ways to understand their market and new avenues to profile authors; for libraries, invaluable new support for events and promotions, and the chance to establish themselves as buzzing community hubs. Library users also have the unrivalled opportunity to interact with fellow readers, books and authors, often in under-served communities.

Miranda McKearney: “With research proving the correlation between borrowing and buying, we showed there were compelling commercial reasons for publishers to work more strategically with libraries. Before we launched Reading Partners, libraries were craving publishers’ support for their efforts to bring reading alive at the heart of their communities.

“At this time of deficit, libraries need to develop effective partnerships. By continuing to work together, publishers can discover better ways to connect to readers and develop new ones, while libraries can carve out a new role in the nation’s reading life.”

Reading Agency Website

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