Last week I was delighted to be invited along to the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish launch of the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge.
In Scotland the Summer Reading Challenge is delivered in partnership by the Reading Agency and the Scottish public library service across twenty-nine of its thirty-two local authorities. For the third year Tesco Bank is the sponsor of the Challenge. In 2013 the project partners hope to support 40,000 children engage in reading activities around the theme of “Creepy House”. The launch itself was hosted by Fiona McLeod MSP. Fiona herself is a Chartered Librarian and currently serves as the chair of the Scottish Library and Information Council.
Fiona introduced a number of guest speakers at the launch:
- Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, spoke about Scotland’s Literacy Action Plan. This takes into account the Scottish Government’s ambition for Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up. She pointed to initiatives that the Scottish Government supports to promote reading to help children’s development as well as a sense of attachment, and of fun. These include Bookbug and the PlayTalkRead campaign. Like Fiona, Aileen also has a track record as a library practitioner having worked in acquisitions at Edinburgh University. She showed her enthusiasm for the “glorious” public library service, concluding that “Libraries are just fantastic”.
- Miranda McKearney, Founder Director and Chief Executive of the Reading Agency, explained the Reading Agency’s mission of creating a fairer society through the encouragement of reading. The Reading Agency’s work takes many forms, and involves every local authority in the UK. The Summer Reading Challenge is the Reading Agency’s biggest project: it accounts for 20% of children’s book borrowing from public libraries for the year. Miranda pointed to how the 40% of young people who admit to not enjoying reading are at a disadvantage in terms of life chances and social mobility. She highlighted the role of librarians (to her “the most vital public servants”) in providing the expert intervention that can encourage reading for pleasure. Miranda is looking forward to witnessing creative library events based around the Creepy House theme, and the support of other agencies such as the BBC, and a number of authors.
- Benny Higgins, CEO of Tesco Bank, explained how Tesco is keen to support communities, especially with regard to the health and well-being of young people. With a keen personal interest in literature (and particularly poetry) Benny shared his great pride in the Summer Reading Challenge. Like the other speakers, he reminded the audience that not all children are offered encouragement to read at home, yet reading is a gateway to seeing the world, and can give everyone a better start in life.
- Author and Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman began her contribution to the evening’s proceedings by explaining that without libraries she would not be where she is today. She explained that although her father was a keen advocate of learning and encouraged her to read reference works, he did not approve of fiction. Malorie therefore satisfied her appetite for stories by spending her Saturdays in the welcoming “classless” public libraries of Lewisham and Deptford. She also proved her father wrong: she learnt very much from fiction. Malorie’s stated goal as Children’s Laureate is to instill a love of books in young people. For children who already have this, libraries as a bonus. For those who don’t (yet), libraries are essential.
The evening itself was a fitting launch for what is set to be an exciting summer of reading for Scotland’s children.