2014 was a great year for Summer Reading Challenge volunteering, with a total of 8,126 young people supporting the Challenge, an increase of 43% from 2013. The programme supports the government's major Step Up To Serve campaign, which aims to double the number of young people participating in social action by 2020. In 2014 and 2015, it is generously funded by the Cabinet Office Social Action Fund.
Young volunteers support the Summer Reading Challenge in a variety of ways including helping the library give out prizes, talking to children about reading, creating library displays and helping to run fun activities with children over the summer. In 2014 we commissioned research consultants OPM to undertake a study into the impact of volunteering on young people, libraries and the children they support. OPM worked with four case study authorities in Gloucester, Norfolk, Lancashire and Tower Hamlets, gathering qualitative data from volunteers, participants, staff and other stakeholders. Their report combines in-depth findings from the case study areas with national data to highlight the difference that the programme makes to young people, children and families and libraries.
Benefits of the programme
The report finds that Summer Reading Challenge volunteering impacts positively on young people, enables them to make a positive difference to their local area and places young people at the centre of the volunteering offer in libraries. Notably, the report states that Summer Reading Challenge volunteering places an 'emphasis on developing certain sets of skills that improve employability and are known to help prepare young people for the realities of work.'
Volunteers and libraries recognised the strong benefits of the programme as well. A 16 year-old Summer Reading Challenge volunteer from Lancashire said: "I was hoping to build on my skills, to be independent, and to work in a team - I got all of those!"
Mike Treacy, head of children's services at Kingston Libraries, said: "I don't know what we would have done without the volunteers. They have been great."
- 85% of volunteers reported that they gained new skills and experience.
- 56% of volunteers said they intended to use libraries more as a result of the volunteering experience.
- 50% of Summer Reading Challenge participants (aged 4 to 11) who were interviewed said they were more likely to finish the Challenge due to working with the volunteers.
- Library staff reported that having Summer Reading Challenge volunteers helped improve libraries' image as open, lively and energetic community spaces.
- Summer Reading Challenge volunteering meets all the Cabinet Office principles for great youth social action and the Arts Council Quality Principles for work with children and young people.
Read a summary of the findings from the report
Read the full report including case study data from four authorities
Find out more about the benefits of Summer Reading Challenge volunteering for libraries and young people.
The Reading Activists programme for 13-24 year olds will soon become Reading Hack - watch this space for more updates.