James Avison is a Neighbourhood Librarian at Tameside Libraries. This has been his first year running Reading Ahead. Here he tells us about the successes of the programme and his hopes for the future.
How successful has Reading Ahead been this year at Tameside?
The response this year has been excellent. We have had a 100% completion rate and our highest participant numbers so far. The success this year is mainly due to working closely with Tameside ACE, our local adult and community education provider. The course tutors incorporated Reading Ahead into their English and Skill for Jobs programmes and their enthusiasm and encouragement has been vital.
Feedback from participants has been really encouraging, with many showing a great increase in confidence and others exploring new interests and activities as a result of things they have read. One participant has started taking archaeology courses after reading a book about it for Reading Ahead because she wanted to learn something new! Others have discovered the library as a place to study or relax.
How did you get participants signed up and maintain their engagement in the programme?
Students were brought from the college as part of one of their sessions in order to learn about the library and to sign up to Reading Ahead. It wasn't compulsory for the students to take part however library visits, inductions and regular visits to the library were done during class hours. This makes it less daunting for new library users and prevents barriers like travel or time from impacting on participation.
We held library induction sessions to go through the different resources in the library, how the system works and how to find things and resources specific to those taking part in Reading Ahead (for example Quick Reads). These worked great in getting participants over that first hurdle of coming to the library.
Secondly, explaining the benefits and taking care of the organisational side of things took the burden off the college and improved library engagement among people who wouldn't otherwise have become members.
Keeping members on the programme until completion was partly due to providing incentives for every two books and promoting the library as an easy and convenient place to come. I was impressed with the resources provided by the Reading Agency. The diary, certificates and incentives were high quality.
The tutors, however, deserve most of the credit for regularly bringing the participants and encouraging them to persevere with the reading.
What reading materials were popular with your Reading Ahead participants?
Quick Reads are always a favourite during Reading Ahead. Readers particularly appreciate the quality of the authors and the fact that the books aren't simplified in terms of content.
A number said they have got into biographies, particularly sporting and music ones as they know they'll be interested enough to read it based on who it is about. Promoting authors who have written multiple books also appeared to help as users could rely on an author's other titles if they enjoyed one and didn't have to worry about struggling through something they didn't like.
Can you explain how your learners benefit from the programme?
Confidence is probably the main one I saw. Meeting the learners at their library inductions was so different to seeing them during the programme and at the celebration event. They were much more talkative, enthusiastic about things they've read and learned and more eager to take part.
Feedback from the tutors has been great. They've seen a marked improvement in literacy and conversation skills as well as critical thinking.
Having the library induction and regular sessions in the library throughout the programme also has the benefit of developing a habit of library use which extends beyond the duration of Reading Ahead.
What are your plans for the coming year?
This year I would like to get other learning providers in Tameside involved such as the local college and private English courses as well as ESOL students. Working with partners is very helpful for guaranteeing that participants can be supported, regularly contacted and so that we can track their progress. We will promote the programme early at our local Learning Provider Network meetings to organise their involvement.
I'd also like to work towards extending our participation to members of the public who would most benefit.
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