For over a decade, the Summer Reading Challenge has been helping children to sustain and develop their reading over the long school holidays. The Challenge has grown year on year and now supports 750,000 children in the UK.
The Summer Reading Challenge is so popular that it can be a struggle to staff the various activities required to make it a success. Library services are finding that Summer Reading Challenge Volunteering can provide a focus for work with young people and support the children taking part, whilst relieving pressure on library staff. Some young people may have experienced the Summer Reading Challenge themselves, and volunteering is a natural progression in their involvement with their local library.
Recent pioneering Reading Agency programmes such as HeadSpace and MyVoice have shown how reading and libraries can be a powerful pivot for young people to volunteer and get involved in their local communities. This work is taking place in the context of new youth volunteering development plans. The Government's Positive for Youth Strategy, published in December 2011 specifically encourages local authorities to offer young people opportunities to support their communities through volunteering opportunities. Library services are well-placed to offer these opportunities through Summer Reading Challenge Volunteering programmes.
Volunteering is: "...an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or individuals or groups other than (or in addition to) close relatives." taken from The Compact Code of Good Practice on Volunteering (2005)
Why develop youth volunteering as part of the Summer Reading Challenge?
"Given that this was the first time we have used volunteers for the Summer Reading Challenge, the feedback from staff, children, parents/carers and the volunteers themselves has been extremely positive." Portsmouth Libraries
Volunteering is an effective way to meet the needs of libraries, young people and national agendas. Young people are current and future users of library services but often libraries find it difficult to attract and sustain their interest. Youth volunteering enables library services to tap into peer networks and get first hand feedback, ideas and advice on attracting other young people. Young people know what the library service needs in order to stay current and vibrant and are far more likely to enter a library where other young people are visibly engaged.
Helping with the Summer Reading Challenge gives them the chance to work creatively on a fun project which they can see will help younger children's reading. Those who currently don't use the library or aren't primarily interested in reading may see numerous benefits to being involved as volunteers and, through volunteering, may become active readers themselves. For example, we are creating a selected book list for young volunteers to dip into to find reading ideas during their spell helping with the Summer Reading Challenge.
The Benefits for libraries
By involving young people as volunteers the library gains:
- support with the time-consuming work involved in the Summer Reading Challenge
- a more youthful image
- the enthusiasm and fresh perspective of young people
- a link with local communities
- help to deliver activities
- staff confidence in working positively with young people
The benefits for young people
For young people, the benefits of working in a library setting are enormous. Volunteering can also help young people to develop a range of work and social skills which helps them in their transition into the adult world. This is particularly important for young people who have become disengaged from the education system; who may have few or no formal qualifications. Through volunteering in libraries young people gain:
- valuable work experience
- a reference for employment
- the opportunity to develop confidence, social skills, employment opportunities and literacy skills
- the opportunity to make a positive contribution to their communities
- a chance to make new friends
The benefits for children
For the children who take part in the Summer Reading Challenge, the advantages of working with young volunteers are just as great. Children love talking to older young people and young volunteers will be reading champions and mentors for the children. Children gain:
- more one-to-one attention from volunteers and staff
- a chance to talk in more detail about their reading experiences
- reading role models to raise their aspirations
- help with web technology
- new, creative activities linked to the Challenge
- support with completing the Challenge
We will have a full training session, handbook and templates available for libraries in April which will cover:
- Developing Volunteering
- Legal Requirements
- Volunteering Roles and Recruitment
- Induction, training and supervision
- Recognition and Progression
- Evaluation and review
Read some of our top tips for recruiting Summer Reading Challenge Volunteers.