Over 6,000 young people and adults took part in Reading Ahead 2018/19 with their public library. In many of the best cases this has worked through partnerships with a wide range of local partners from adult education to workplaces.
Lockdown over the past year has made delivery difficult with creative approaches required to run the programme remotely. However, it is more important now than ever that less confident readers are supported to build their confidence and skills and even when operating remotely libraries are vital to supporting learning and wellbeing.
Reading Ahead 2021 launched on 1 February and you can start running the programme at any time so it's never too late to get involved! We've put together some top tips and you can download our toolkit for running Reading Ahead 2021.
1. The library and reading materials
Your readers are likely to vary in reading level so make sure you're prepared with a wide range of engaging reading materials. Ensure that staff and librarians are confident giving recommendations at the right reading level for your participants. Take a look at our list of publishers with books for emergent readers as well as Quick Reads.
Make the library the centre of activity and use the programme to raise the profile of the library with potential partners in the community. Start with library inductions and introduce participants to library staff who can help them find relevant books. Use our posters and leaflets to publicise the programme on library noticeboards, plasma screens, websites and on social media. Start an informal reading group or a regular drop-in session for participants to talk about what they are reading and swap recommendations.
If the library is closed at the moment think about how you can publicise books and other reading materials to participants digitally and make sure they know how to use any 'request and deliver' services you might be offering. We have posters and leaflets for publicising the programme and guiding less confident readers in choosing something to read.
If the library is open, use our posters and leaflets on library noticeboards, plasma screens as well as websites and on social media. Start an informal reading group or a regular drop-in session for participants to talk about what they are reading and swap recommendations.
Remember to sign up to the new Reading Ahead website so that you can access all the downloadable resources and Find A Read - a unique reading database searchable via reading level. We have lots of resources for engaging ESOL learners such as our booklist.
Sustainable partnerships are the key to Reading Ahead, especially for public libraries, and it pays to start planning early to establish shared aims and outcomes. Working with a range of external partners means that you can reach groups of people who wouldn't normally come to the library, especially if it brings memories of failure during schooldays.
Partnership working will also lead to other benefits like sharing costs and administration. This can include public health and Adult Community Colleges.
Matthew Entwistle, Community Librarian at Livewire, Warrington runs Reading Ahead as part of a large partnership of organisations working across Warrington including the public library, local colleges, care homes, hospitals and even the rugby club. "the Reading Ahead partnership works because all partners see the value of the scheme and know the difference that it makes to the lives of their users. All partners can evidence clear and powerful results and point to individual empowerment on a grand scale." Find out more.
Get local authority buy-in. Reading Ahead contributes to the library service's role in supporting literacy in your community and provides opportunities for closer working with local colleges and learning partners. Make use of our advocacy leaflet and evaluation report.
Organisations who support over 50 participants to complete the challenge receive an organisation certificate and make it onto our roll of honour. Share these goals and successes with local authorities and senior staff to gain their support in spreading the word and ensuring resources are available.
3. Engagement & momentum
Keeping up momentum is critical. You may want to introduce a different theme or initiative for each month to spark interest. Use national events such as World Book Night and Adult Learners' Week as well as other library programmes.
Remember that you are selling the library service as well as Reading Ahead. Several services target parents and carers whose children will be taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge by linking to family learning and children's centres. Others have targeted their World Book Night activity at the Reading Ahead audience.
We have created posters to encourage participants to share their reading with each other.
Get staff involved! It's important that all staff know about Reading Ahead and are able to encourage participants and signpost them to the right books. But you can make this into some fun by suggesting they take part too - perhaps using books for emergent readers so that they get to know the stock. A bit of healthy competition between staff can work wonders to bump up registration and completion rates.
4. Incentives and celebrating success
Plan and promote your celebrations well ahead and use events to spur on your participants throughout the year. Tell potential participants about any final award ceremony you're planning and what prizes you are offering - we offer branded incentive items and Quick Reads, you can supplement these locally - so they know what to aim for.
Celebrate with an awards ceremony (hopefully possible in June!). Invite a local celebrity - the mayor, an author, a sports star - and aim to get some press coverage. Encourage completers to ask family and friends. Make a film of the event and take photos to get everyone excited about the next year of the programme.
Visit our Shop to order print and digital core materials and incentives.
Take a look at our impact case studies.
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