When a group of boys started showing up at the library in St Helens, displaying anti-social behaviour, the library team had a choice. Ban them, or help them. They chose the latter, and decided to get them involved in the Reading Activists project.
Kathryn Boothroyd, Community Development Manager told us: "These are teenagers who are known to the police. One of them was on an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) which is a pre-cursor to an ASBO. When you are on an ABC, it's a case of three strikes and you are on an ASBO. Getting banned from the library for his behaviour would have been one strike."
A change in behavior
It wasn't easy, but bit by bit, they began to make a difference. The change in Liam was particularly dramatic. Liam had never engaged with library staff before, wouldn't make eye contact and spent all his time glued to a game boy. But as he became involved in Reading Activists, a transformation took place. He started to engage with the library staff, with the Reading Activists project and even began developing his own ideas and projects.
"One day, out of the blue, he said he had an idea for a comic strip. "It will show off our creative language", he told us. We were amazed. Liam had always claimed that he wasn't into reading. But now he had found something he was passionate about."
A visit to Faber Publishing in London
After hearing about the comic strip, and how much progress the group had made, The Reading Agency invited them to Faber Publishing in London to meet publishers, and talk to them about books and reading. Some of the young people had never been to London before. One had never even left St Helens. It was an experience they will always remember.
Reading Activists in St Helens has gone from strength to strength. The young people really value the project and the experiences it gives them.
"We feel that we've given them a place of their own. Somewhere they can talk about what is going on in their lives. We've worked hard to gain their trust. We want to go on supporting them, because we don't want to become just more people who have let them down."
Like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter.
Interested in building your CV through volunteering or like the idea of meeting new friends whilst helping out at your local library? Find out more about Reading Activists and what you can do for yourself and for your local community.