Before the Reading Challenge
Since June 2017, I have been working as the Outreach Librarian (Attainment Challenge) with Inverclyde Libraries, helping to implement interventions to ensure educational equity. One significant intervention I have been involved in is the Pop-up Library service which featured at Inverclyde’s seven summer lunch clubs. My contribution was to bring all the magic of a library in microcosm to the clubs: books, literacy activities, Bookbug and a warm welcome! Some 968 children and 535 adults have accessed outreach library services since June, a strong testimony to the power of the initiative and a great foundation to build on.
Introducing the Reading Challenge
In the past, we have found “Reading for Pleasure” to be an important but somewhat slippery concept because it is such a personal activity and cannot be taught. The good news is that it can be developed through example, encouragement and reinforcement.
We used this as a starting point, working alongside the Literacy Coaching and Modelling Officer for Inverclyde’s Attainment Team, to design and deliver CLPL for primary teachers across the authority on building a reading culture.
We invited Jen Harwood to come along to talk about the First Minister's Reading Challenge as we felt it was a perfect focus for building a reading culture within the schools. Over 50 teachers attended across all primary schools in Inverclyde. Their enthusiasm was infectious, with excellent feedback and great uptake for the FMRC. We set up a Yammer group on the GLOW network so that good practice could be shared and we also encouraged schools to follow the FMRC twitter handle. This will be followed up in 2018 by a 6-week programme where we will bring families from the schools into our public libraries to celebrate reading for pleasure.
Our focus for the project is P2-3 classes because, when it comes to literacy, the effect is especially pronounced in lower primary. Also, a pupil’s ability to read at grade level by the time they complete P3 is a better indicator of their academic success than the education levels of their parents. Understanding that parents, in turn, may need support in order to help their children with reading we are taking the next step and asking, “Why not tap the entire community?”
Working with the community
A community reading model provides children, no matter their financial situation, with access to the books they want and need. Using the tools that libraries provide, we hope to connect children and families to their school and level the playing field by providing access to technology and books for children and parents who might otherwise not have them. I am uniquely placed to provide these connections with support from my colleagues in Inverclyde Libraries.
This community approach led to our first Book Clinic as part of Book Week Scotland (based on a model developed by Children’s Books Ireland). Susan Morton, school librarian, Inverclyde Libraries staff and I became Book Doctors, distributing book prescriptions to families. Part of our service for the younger “Patients” and their families was to provide them with the First Minister's Reading Challenge 100 Places to Start your Reading Journey booklet.
We hope that making these valuable connections and establishing an active presence within the community will give our community reading program notability and continuity. Once the public is aware of reading activities that attract a cross-section of the community, it becomes easier to engage the participation not only of local organizations but of national partners.
In the coming months I hope to add value to the Inverclyde library service offer for Attainment Challenge schools and families by enhancing the delivery of national reading promotions (e.g. Bookbug, Read Write Count, First Minister's Reading Challenge) with a particular focus on family involvement. From my outreach work to date, I have found the most positive impact is made by going to the communities involved. When the outreach service is open, friendly, appealing and relevant, the impact is limitless. Reading is not just something that children should do in school; it needs to be an everyday part of our lives. This is why Inverclyde is adopting this community-focused approach; we are there for people throughout their reading journey, where and when they need us.
You can find out about other great projects linking schools and libraries through the Reading Challenge here.