Today (Wed 19th March 2014), the Minister for Culture and Sport in Wales, John Griffiths AM, and Dr Rhys Jones, wildlife expert and TV presenter, launched a new scheme to start the automatic sign up of primary school children in Wales to their local library service. There’s a video here from the launch, press release with more info and pic, and exciting pics to come soon.
The project is starting with Year 4 pupils (aged 8-9 yrs) in six local authorities (Blaenau Gwent, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Powys and Swansea) and involves the library service, primary schools and our Wales library marketing team working together on the automatic registering of pupils.
Why bother? Well, lots of research points to the benefit of reading for pleasure on improving literacy skills/level, other research highlights the significant percentage of homes who don’t have books, and also we know that with public library ‘active borrower’ figures around 25% of the population in Wales, there are a lot of children and families who are not in the reading or library habit.
By targeting children who are just about old enough to go to a library on their own or with friends (if they live near one), the project seeks to break cycles of poverty by enthusing all children, regardless of background or those with library habits, to enjoy reading and to use the library.
The library services and primary schools have been working together to invite the children to the library where they will find a special branded library card, goodie bag, plus all the usual fare in a library!
During the launch in Wales the Minister emphasized how important it is for children to enjoy reading for pleasure and encouraged the children present to make the most of the library.
Year 4 pupils from a local primary school (Bryn Bach Primary School) came to the launch. Teacher Sam Jones said: “Getting the children out of school and into the library enabling them to pick their own books and hearing them discuss their favourites is wonderful. If we can encourage all children to use the library it will no doubt have a beneficial effect on how they perform in class too.”
Each of the local authorities in the pilot will be holding special events with local authors to create plenty of excitement and encourage children to use the library again.
There is some project information on the Welsh Libraries portal. If the pilot is a success (evaluation will take place over the summer) we hope to roll it out to the remaining authorities in Wales, and then to expand it to other age groups in primary schools. The organising and co-ordinating work is being led by the all-Wales marketing team based at Wrexham and is part of the Libraries Inspire strategy for Welsh libraries.
The idea for it came from Killay library Swansea, who created the ‘six school challenge’ where they signed up all children in each of the six primary schools in the Killay library catchment area. You can read about that in issue 10 of CyMAL magazine (winter 2010).
England announced a similar scheme with 22 pilots in winter 2012, although the links go to a dead page on the Arts Council website so use this link instead. As yet I’ve not heard about the outcomes of the projects but it will be very good to see how their projects have worked, as some of them have taken different approaches eg targeting babies, reception stage children etc.