A library-based youth reading and volunteering programme that was highly commended at this year’s Charity Awards has just won £1m from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to enable it to scale up to reach 13 times as many young people.
Reading Activists, a programme from the Reading Agency, was shortlisted in the arts, heritage and culture category at the Charity Awards 2013.
The programme was launched in April 2011 with the aim of inspiring 30,000 vulnerable, disadvantaged and excluded 11 to 19-year-olds to read for pleasure and engage with their local libraries. It would last for three years and cost around £1m.
By the end of year one, 502 creative reading and writing events and activities had been organised by young people at their local libraries, and 7,132 young people aged 11 to 19 said they had had a positive experience of libraries and creativity through taking part in the events.
Twenty new ‘reading spaces’ had been established where young people can meet and volunteer, and 314 young people had joined steering groups that manage these spaces. Over 560 youngsters had volunteered as planners, champions and social reporters, and 137 young people had been trained in digital and social media skills.
Support for local libraries
As the end of year two approached, the Reading Agency was already planning to expand the digital element of the programme, to support capacity-building for libraries in order to help them to establish the programme without financial support from the Reading Agency.
It also planned to create nine regional ‘reading hubs’ – central places for creative reading and writing activity for children and young people.
Now the Paul Hamlyn Foundation has agreed to boost the Reading Activists scheme with a new £1m grant that will support its expansion to reach 95,000 young people across the country. The grant was announced at an event at 10 Downing Street earlier this week.
Reading flashmobs, apps and games
A new ‘Reading Activists Challenge’ will inspire young people to get active in their communities through reading and volunteering in libraries. It will be made up of ‘mini-challenges’ designed to develop young people’s own skills and encourage more people to enjoy reading.
After a feasibility phase this year, young people will be able to plan and run creative events such as reading flashmobs, create reading-inspired apps and games, and support younger readers to take part in another of the Reading Agency’s programmes, the Summer Reading Challenge, at their local library.
The £1m gift is the last of five special grants from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to mark its 25th anniversary. New chief executive Martin Brookes said: “The Paul Hamlyn Foundation exists because of books, and because Paul Hamlyn combined his ability to sell them in large numbers with his passion for social justice. It is fitting that our final anniversary gift should so neatly reflect the link between reading and social change.”