About the project
Lewisham Libraries worked with young people from Someville Youth Centre to develop a programme of hack activity based on the Reading Well for Young People list.
Staff at Lewisham libraries conducted initial outreach and awareness raising through Signal, Lewisham Young Minds and Baseline (formerly Connexions), then worked with young people at Somerville Youth Centre in New Cross. Over six weeks young people read short extracts from titles on the Reading Well for Young People book list and explored their experiences and feelings around the topics of bullying, stress, gender and sexuality by hacking the books.
This project was funded by a grant from RELX.
How the young people hacked the Reading Well for Young People List
For the stress hack, young people wrote down the things that made them feel stressed on stones, then used the words on the stones as a starting point for writing haikus.
As part of the gender and sexuality hack, young people watched online interviews with author of Mind Your Head and LGBTQ spokeswoman Juno Dawson, then emailed her with questions about her latest book, Margot and Me. The young people also made Valentine's Day cards for themselves and worked together to write a poem about positive relationships.
For the final session, young people shared what they had been working on with other young people at Somerville. They wrote messages of hope and happiness on postcards, and tied these to balloons and released them for somebody else to find and be uplifted by, as in this video.
Positive outcomes and feedback
57 young people were reached through the initial awareness-raising, and a further 12 became Reading Hackers through the work that took place at Somerville Youth Centre. Of these young people, 100% agreed that they had enjoyed taking part and had learned something new. 87% said it made them want to read more.
The library service used the project to build relationships with a range of local organisations, including Lewisham Young Minds and Lewisham Baseline (formerly Connexions). The library also consulted with Signal, a local autism support charity for young people and their families.
Challenges and learning opportunities
- Be prepared to change your plans: This project was originally supposed to take place in the library, but was relocated to Somerville Youth Centre because young people already felt comfortable there.
- Seek additional support: The move to Somerville meant that youth workers who had an existing relationship with the young people were on hand to support library staff during the sessions
- Understand priorities: Young people often arrived late, left early or missed a session. Try not to see this as a problem, and allow young people to dip in and out as they wish.
Lewisham Libraries are keen to continue the partnership with Somerville, which is based very close to New Cross Library. The hope is that there will be a small amount of money available to provide the centre with a collection of books and a library barcode scanner, so that staff at Somerville can lend out library stock directly to young people.
The hacks the young people created were shared on www.readinghack.org.uk and formed part of a Reading Well hack pack, designed to support library and school practitioners working with young people around the Reading Well list.
Young people can see how others hack hacked the Reading Well list and share their own hacks on www.readinghack.org.uk.
Find out more about the Reading Well for Young People scheme.