Youth volunteering in libraries' Summer Reading Challenge doubles as young people give back to their communities
We are delighted that the number of young people aged 11 to 24 volunteering in their local library as part of the Summer Reading Challenge has risen by almost half.
Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd joined our inspirational young volunteers at a reception at No. 11 Downing Street on 15 January, to celebrate this achievement and to encourage even more young people to share in the benefits of volunteering.
Last year 4,382 young people volunteered to be part of the Summer Reading Challenge, a 49% increase over the previous year. The young volunteers help librarians to run the Summer Reading Challenge by inspiring younger children aged four to 11 to read six books of their choice over the school holidays.
Thanks to a grant from the Cabinet Office's Social Action Fund, we now aim to work with libraries to build on these figures in 2013 through our Reading Activists programme again working with library services, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians.
Nick Hurd, minister for Civil Society, said: "Through the Social Action Fund we are backing charities and social action projects with a track record of motivating people to become involved with their community. We want to help these tried and tested projects reach out to more people or expand into new areas.
"With the success of the Summer Reading Challenge, The Reading Agency and their library partners have demonstrated the many benefits that come through volunteering - schoolchildren gain from improved literacy, while young volunteers can develop a range of vocational and life skills to help them on the path to adulthood. I'm hugely encouraged that, with the support of the Social Action Fund, we can build on this success and connect even more young people with the opportunities that social action brings."
Miranda McKearney OBE, our director, said: "Things are tough for young people, and our programmes with libraries can offer them unique and powerful volunteering opportunities. And there's nothing more inspiring for a child than having a teenage volunteer from their own community spurring them on to read."
At the event, Miranda chaired a Q&A session with a panel of young people who were Summer Reading Challenge volunteers. There were volunteers from Gateshead, Hackney, Westminster, Warrington and Tower Hamlets - all of whom brought along their 'Book to Change the World' to capture on film.
Volunteers add a hugely motivational dimension to this programme, which inspires the love of reading so critical to literacy development. Oxford University research has shown that reading for pleasure is the only out-of-school activity that is demonstrably linked to securing professional or managerial jobs in later life.
Janene Cox, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, said: "At a time when competition for first jobs is fierce, library volunteering offers young people the opportunity to develop essential life skills, including leadership, confidence, multi-media usage and experience in working with others. With the support of The Reading Agency, libraries hope to nurture a new, socially-minded generation of volunteers who will both enter the future library workforce and become advocates for literacy and libraries."
Read more about our Reading Activists programme of activities.