Friday, 6 October 2017

Summer now gone, but the memories remain

I always loved the school summer holdiays, as a child and as an adult when I had children of my own. It is 6 glorious weeks when children are running amok and pestering their bored and irritable parents. Well, that is what I used to do, but that was way before computers and the Internet and interactive gaming meant that you played Monopoly with your friends. Sometimes you could stretch a game out for days!! (you had to have a friend with parents that didn't mind their dining table being occupied for that long).

It is far more likely that children today will settle down in a corner and sink into the Internet with one or more mobile device. However, you can drag them outside, make them walk somewhere,take them to run in the park or go on a bus or in a car to your local library. Many blog posts ago I talked about the Summer Reading Challenge. My field work started one year at the time of the Summer Reading Challenge and ended at the same time the following year. So, today the Summer Reading Challenge begins. Each year the Reading Agency develops this initiative to make sure that children's reading levels are kept up while they are not at school. Children that sign up have to read at least 6 books from their local library where they will also receive various rewards. There is a theme each year, and this time it is "Animal Agents".

Many libraries hold special themed sessions and there are colouring and activity sheets to give out. I have been looking through my archive of Google Alerts again, and I found that in 2014 the children of Sarn and Bridgend fought a dragon, paraded through the town and inspected a Fire Engine as part of that year's challenge. A detailed account can be found here.

Some libraries take the chance of the Summer Reading Challenge to engage young people to help out with their activities. This means that children from 5 -12 years and 13 - 18 years can be gainfully occupied. At the CILIP conference this year I found out what Bolton Libraries do with their Summer Reading Challenge volunteer workforce. They have proper training work with younger children on craft activities, this year they are being trained to do storytelling, and they too are rewarded, frequently with pizza! They are trusted and respected and given real choices on the way that the volunteer team operates. For example, when the scheme was set up the young people decided that they should be called "Imaginators", because they were there to help children stimulate their imagination.

I heard a young man speak about his experience as a volunteer. He is at the stage of having applied for university and found that having been an Imaginator for a number of years he was able to add his experience and skills to his CV. He felt that it gave him an "edge" over other candidates. He is going to study History, but he feels that at some point he would like to get back into the library and information world. He is no longer a volunteer at the library, because the library now employ him in a Saturday job.

I found this quite inspiring. I think that Bolton Libraries are taking exactly the right approach to volunteers. They are not just a cheap substitute for full time staff, they are not there just to pad out numbers, they are there to be educated, socialised into the world of work and to gain experience that they can use for the rest of their life.

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