Judith Robinson is Development Librarian for Kirklees Library Service in Huddersfield. Here she explains how she became involved in Reading Ahead, and shares her tips on running the programme.
Starting Reading Ahead
Judith has been involved in Reading Ahead since the programme began in 2008. Her role at that time was to reach non-traditional library users. Reading Ahead was an ideal programme for her because it is aimed at people who are less confident with their literacy skills or who might not see reading for pleasure as something for them.
Judith says she found Reading Ahead an easy sell because the format is simple to explain. "You join the library, read six books, then take part in activities linked to exploring the books," she explains. Judith and her colleagues began to use Reading Ahead as a tool to build engagement with reading and the library.
She says: "If you struggle with reading, the last place you'd want to go to is somewhere with lots of books. But the people who have taken part have started to think of a library as a place for them and now read for pleasure. We planned sessions with particular groups' interests at heart and this paid dividends in terms of how many people completed Reading Ahead - we have always had very high completion rates."
Making a connection with books
Judith says one of the most important things about Reading Ahead is how it helps less confident readers connect with books. "It's about wanting to read," she says, "and that comes when individuals browse books, borrow them and discuss them. We keep activity sessions informal and inclusive and promote a positive view of libraries, books and reading."
Several of the groups that took part in Reading Ahead now meet in the library as informal reading groups, which the library has supported with books, including a group of ESOL (English as a Second Language) learners who continue to meet to improve their English skills.
Securing a future by reading
Kirklees Library Service has worked with a wide range of people including adults with learning disabilities, literacy learners, job seekers, families, young adults and local unions.
Judith explains: "There was one man who took part in Reading Ahead and when the activities ended, he took on the responsibility of organising and leading future sessions for a group which wanted to continue reading and meeting in the library. Because of his efforts in mentoring the group, the library nominated him for a national Adult Learners Week award which he won. He was so enthusiastic and wanted more people to be involved in Reading Ahead. He used his experience to reflect on his future and how he wanted to be involved in supporting and mentoring vulnerable adults. He now works in the probation service as part of a restorative justice programme, and it all started with Reading Ahead. Another participant was a struggling reader with no tangible paper qualifications. But she was very diligent with her Reading Ahead diary and the book themed activities. She took these examples of what she had been doing to a job interview as an example of self-development."
In recognition of the work Judith has done with Reading Ahead and adult learners, she was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours list.
She says: "I am thrilled and delighted with the award. I have been really lucky over the years to work with colleagues and managers who have encouraged and supported me in the work I have done with adult learners. I hope this award highlights the wide-ranging work that the public library service does and how hard everyone works to make the services as inclusive and welcoming as possible."
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