Norfolk Libraries set out this summer to help more children take part in the Summer Reading Challenge in isolated communities and where families aren't already library users.
Using the School Library Service mobile library that would be off the road during the school holidays they converted the vehicle into a Story Lab bus. This travelled around the county for 4 weeks visiting isolated children and families who may not visit libraries and complemented the regular mobile library service.
Meeting a real need
Norfolk faces a range of issues that the bus has helped to address. They include poor levels of literacy in some areas, as well as a lack of public transport. Some needs are very community-specific, such as the isolation of the children at RAF Marham and Robertson Barracks.
In order to reach these groups as effectively as possible, the Council worked with a range of partners, such as children's centres, playschemes, and playrangers sessions, including one on a large housing estate that has very few other services or facilities.
To make the Story Lab bus as attractive as possible, they changed the shelving so books would be outward facing, created displays and used posters and other promotional materials. To keep visitors engaged, they provided quizzes and other activities.
A children's centre worker told us: "The children in the Summer Club were particularly enthusiastic, and after the final visit several of them sought me out... to excitedly tell me that they had completed the challenge and what books they had read."
Making a real impact
The results over four weeks were impressive. Over a total of 20 locations across the county, 556 books were loaned out via the bus. An impressive 56 new library members were signed up, of whom 15 were from the RAF and Army locations. We know of several who continue to make the journey to their local library as a result - even though they must travel up to four miles to do so.
One parent said: "I loved bringing all the children to the library bus for the children to do the Story Lab. We have big problems with transport as we don't have a car and with four children it's hard getting on the bus. So this has been a big help."
A total of 75 children completed the Summer Reading Challenge, with one mum telling us she was amazed at the number of books her twins wanted to borrow. Another described the pleasure she felt in hearing her daughter giggle after a performance from a storyteller.
As for the books themselves, non-fiction and the Horrid Henry books proved to be extremely popular!
Another parent commented: "We thought Storylab was fab. Max thoroughly enjoyed visiting the bus and reading the stories that we took home."
We'd love to hear about your experience of the Summer Reading Challenge. Tell us via our Summer Reading Challenge Facebook page or by emailing Chris Cherry on Chris.Cherry@readingagency.org.uk.
If your child enjoyed taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge why not find a Chatterbooks reading club for them to join on our Reading Groups for Everyone website