The number of children who completed the Summer Reading Challenge in Redbridge rose by 13% in 2013 and the extra support provided by volunteers was integral to this. By giving children that valuable one to one attention, volunteers improve the children's experience of the challenge and of reading. We asked librarians from Redbridge about how they recruited and worked with Summer Reading Challenge volunteers.
In 2013, staff in Redbridge started the recruitment process earlier than ever, kicking things off in February. They have a partnership with Volunteer Centre Redbridge who signpost a lot of volunteers to the library but they also promote the role widely through libraries, schools, youth centres, and the internet.
Anyone who expressed an interest in volunteering completed an application form and was then asked to attend a brief interview. Training and induction took place at individual libraries. Volunteers were then introduced to the staff, shown around and welcomed to the team.
Volunteers in Redbridge wear a special badge. They also wear volunteer T-shirts to make them easy to identify and to help them to feel part of a team. It also helps to distinguish them from regular staff so that they are less likely to be asked a question by the public that is beyond their remit.
Keeping volunteers busy
One of the biggest challenges was keeping the volunteers occupied during less busy periods. But staff in Redbridge came up with some great ideas to stop volunteers twiddling their thumbs. They got volunteers cutting out for craft activities, ensuring photo permission forms were completed, asking survey questions to capture feedback and tidying the children's library so they were familiar with stock.
Plans for the future
Redbridge are developing year-round volunteering opportunities so that young people are already in place when the Summer Reading Challenge begins. Volunteers currently help at Chatterbooks children's reading groups, Homework Help sessions and Games Clubs.
Redbridge are also developing a Reading Buddy programme through links with the Young Offenders Team in Redbridge. Local primary schools will refer children with lower than average reading ability to practice their reading skills at the library. This will be supported by volunteers, some of whom will be referred by the Young Offenders Team. The volunteers will be supervised while they listen to the children read and hand out small incentives.
Finally, Redbridge are developing a more diverse role for Summer Reading Challenge volunteers going forward. There are already plans underway for creating a volunteer press team!
Feedback from young volunteers in 2013
"It was interesting working with the staff at the library. It is a really nice atmosphere here at the library. I would really like to work here when I'm older." Volunteer, age 14.
"Volunteering at Gants Hill Library has given me lots of confidence." Volunteer, age 15.
Read more about the benefits of involving volunteers at your library.
If you have any questions or need further help on Summer Reading Challenge volunteering, please contact Claire Styles.
Young people who'd like to become a Summer Reading Challenge volunteer can contact their local library.