I joined DCMS Libraries Team in June after working in the Department for Education for quite a long time. This was the second year I’ve volunteered for the Summer Reading Challenge.
Six books, six weeks
For those of you not familiar with the Summer Reading Challenge, it’s a programme run by The Reading Agency in libraries to encourage children to read over the summer break and help prevent the summer ‘dip’ in their reading skills. This year’s theme was Mischief Makers based on characters from the Beano which celebrated its 80th birthday this year.
Children aged 4-11 read at least one library book a week of their choice then come back to talk about them to library staff or volunteers like me. This year they earned stickers for each book to help them find the treasure on a Beanotown map (Beano town has a lovely library run by a very helpful yeti librarian). After reading 3 books the children got a Bananaman bookmark (remember him?) and then a medal and certificate for reading all 6 books. Some libraries run schemes for younger and older age groups too.
When talking about the books they had read some children were so enthusiastic, it was hard for me to get a word in - others needed a lot of coaxing - but they all had something to say in the end. I just had to find the right question!
My favourite was a 6 year old who had just read ‘Monsters Love Underpants’ by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. When asked what his favourite part was, he grinned and said ‘the monster in the pirate pants’, then proceeded to giggle as he showed me some of the other amusing illustrations.
SRC is a great way to volunteer. I did 2 sessions a week, one on Monday and another on Saturday. I got to interact directly with children and heard some entertaining and interesting reviews. I also met some new people, including some teenagers volunteering to boost their CV, and found out about some local events (which has been great for me as a new resident in the town).
It also reminded me of the variety of books children have available to them - for free - at libraries. As well as the classics like Enid Blyton and Thomas the Tank Engine, the children introduced me to some authors and stories I’d not heard of and will be recommending to my 2 young nieces. I also found some great ‘Quick Reads’ which I used to pass the quieter moments, but the most enjoyable book was the one about scary creatures with a penchant for undergarments. I wonder what I’ll discover next year!