(Eman Abdelmaksoud and Natividade Abreu receiving their Six Book Challenge certificates from Challenge champion Digby Fairweather and Southend-on-Sea Mayor Cllr Chris Walker)
The Six Book Challenge is part of the public libraries' Universal Reading Offer and nearly two-thirds of public library services get involved every year, providing vital underpinning support for the programme across the UK. In the best cases they work with a wide range of local partners from adult education to workplaces, but limited capacity means that they have to use their staff and financial resources as effectively as possible. Here are our top tips on how to run the Challenge at your library.
1. Work with partners
Sustainable partnership is the lifeblood of the Six Book Challenge, 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 near the library, especially if it brings memories of failure during schooldays.
Melanie Rawles from Plymouth Libraries reports: "We have found that going to talk to the group we're working with and then inviting them in for a tour of the library works really well in allaying people's fears."
2. Share costs and administration
Partnership working will also lead to other benefits. Devon Libraries have had a welcome boost to their Challenge activity with significant financial commitment from public health. Simon Wallace at Southend Libraries has been able to share some of the record-keeping with tutors at Southend Adult Community College who are now experienced at running the programme with their students.
3. Get local authority buy-in
Libraries' Universal Reading Offer is designed to align their reading activity with local priorities. Nearly all library services now include the Six Book Challenge in their action and delivery plans. In Islington the Six Book Challenge is part of the borough-wide reading strategy 'Islington Reads'.
Rosemary Doyle, Head of Library & Heritage Services in Islington, explains: "The Six Book Challenge has become an important part of our Islington Reads work. It contributes to the library service's role in supporting literacy in the borough and has provided opportunities for closer working with the local further education college and learning partners. I'd recommend that every library authority should run it!"
4. Link to other library programmes
Remember that you are selling the library service as well as the Six Book Challenge. Several services are targeting 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 Six Book Challenge audience.
Pauline Martin at South Tyneside Libraries promotes the Six Book Challenge successfully with mums and toddlers groups and has been able to use Barrington Stoke's new picture books to get people interested. She said: "We signed up over 40 parents/grandparents and they loved the book All I Said Was. We made bird gliders as a craft to complement the story. They have taken four books home with them - two to share with their children and two for themselves. We will read the second book Itch Scritch Scratch as a group when we meet again.
5. Get staff involved
It's important that all staff know about the Six Book Challenge and are able to encourage participants and signpost them to the right books. But you can make this into some fun by suggesting they do their own Six Book Challenge - 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.
6. Plan and promote your celebrations well ahead
Use events to spur on your Challenge participants throughout the year. Tell them about any final award ceremony you're planning so that they have a special occasion to aim for. Here, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) learners are celebrating at Church Street Library in Kensington. Sheffield Libraries always invite the mayor to give out certificates. Learners in Kirklees celebrate in their regular class session. Completers in Brent will be meeting author Dorothy Koomson at their award ceremony in July.
You can order materials from our shop and find further guidance on our resources page.
Please contact Genevieve Clarke if you have any questions about running the Six Book Challenge in public libraries.