Science and reading: A powerful combination that will create opportunities for the UK

• The Reading Agency have been successful in receiving £289,411 from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants to fund a ground-breaking new STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Maths) project.

• The project also benefits from £50,000 in funding from the Science, Technology and Facilities Council and so represents a joint investment from arts and science funders to tackle the intractable challenge of raising engagement in science among disadvantaged communities.

• The project will reach 219,115 people including 4000 children and young people in disadvantaged communities with science through reading.

• The project is supported by a wide range of leading organisations, including the British Science Association, Libraries Connected, STEM Ambassadors, The Natural History Museum, the British Library, DK Publishing, Walker Books and Nosy Crow.

• Ambassadors for the project are:
o Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a British scientist and educator who presents The BBC’s Sky At Night.
o Greg Foot, who has created science engagement broadcasts for CBBC and BBC3.
o Prof. Hugh Montgomery, a pioneer in intensive care medicine.

There is a persistent gap in science engagement and participation among lower socioeconomic groups, teenage girls and BME communities. The 2017 Social Mobility Commission Report states that only 15% of scientists, 21% of engineers, 9% of doctors and 6% of life science professionals come from working-class backgrounds. STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Maths) is a new multi-disciplinary approach that has been developed in the USA to introduce new audiences to STEM through activities and methods driven by arts and reading.

The Reading Agency are delighted to be working with science partners, publishers and public libraries to channel the amazing power of reading to bring science skills and learning to new audiences of children and young people. This exciting new programme of work will mark an important step change in the STREAM agenda. This is a timely moment for The Reading Agency and Arts Council England to introduce this model to the UK and showcase the potential role of reading and arts, as STEM engagement organisations actively seek new, collaborative approaches to engaging disadvantaged audiences.

Sue Williamson, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England, says: “As the National Development Agency for Libraries, Arts Council England is delighted to support this project which uses the richly representative audience that libraries attract to bring together science, love of reading and creativity to help children and families see that science is fun and exciting. We know that science and creativity are very closely linked but that science is often something that people lose interest in in once they leave school and hope that this project will encourage an interest and help to develop a lasting love for science in people of all ages.

We’re particularly pleased that we are partnering with the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Natural History Museum, Springer Nature, the British Science Association and Dorling Kindersley publishers alongside such a stellar communicator as Greg Foot. We are also thrilled that Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Prof. Hugh Montgomery have agreed to be ambassadors.”

The project will be rolled out over 10 library sites around the country and will enable children aged 4-11 and their families to discover science and do more reading through STREAM (science, technology, reading, arts and maths) activities. The activities will be designed by young people aged 14-18 and be delivered through creative writing, digital making, interactive exhibits in the library space and creative workshop and activity commissions with authors and science engagement experts. Families will experience fun and engaging year-round STREAM activities in the library delivered by experts, authors, library staff, volunteers and young people. The programme will build positive perceptions of science in places with low aspiration/engagement in higher education and with low cultural participation.

Jenni Chambers, Director at The Science and Technology Facilities Council says: “The Science and Technology Facilities Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, is pleased to be supporting The Reading Agency in developing this ambitious project which will build on our work in supporting STEM skills in communities across the country. This new approach to delivering science-focussed reading and arts activities in libraries has the potential to make a real difference in engaging new families, children and young people in the wonder and excitement of STEM.

For further information contact [email protected]

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The Reading Agency

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