Libraries 'fundamental' says Hurd, as TRA celebrates Reading Challenge rise

More young people than ever are getting involved in reading schemes at their local libraries, charity The Reading Agency revealed last night (15th December), at an event held at number 11 Downing Street, residence of the chancellor George Osborne.

Meanwhile Nick Hurd, minister for civil society, told The Bookseller that libraries are "fundamental", and "very key in supporting young people".

Frances Osborne, wife of the chancellor, hosted the event held to celebrate the work of young volunteers who had helped 750,000 children to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge scheme run by TRA.

Children who sign up take on the challenge of reading six books during their summer holiday away from school, to keep up their literacy skills and interact with books and the library.

In 2012, 4,382 volunteers aged between 11 and 24 helped younger children to complete the challenge, a 49% rise in volunteers from the previous year. Meanwhile 85% of the volunteers said they would want to continue volunteering in their local libraries.

Hurd, present at the evening, told The Bookseller: "We want to get young people involved in their communities, young people especially, and help people connect with the joy of reading. This project combines all of these things."

He added: "Libraries are fundamental. Many of them are under pressure, but they are very key in supporting young people, and being a fun place where they can discover reading."

Antonio Rizzo, chair of the Association of London Chief Librarians, said: "From our point of view, it's been great to see young people making the most of libraries. All of the young volunteers have really grown from their experiences which is wonderful to see. What's also been interesting is how many boys have been involved."

In 2013 The Reading Agency will be working with the support of the Cabinet Office¹s Social Action Fund, and working alongside the Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Children's and Educational Librarians to expand similar schemes.

Miranda McKearney, director of The Reading Agency, said: "Things are tough for young people, and our programmes with libraries can offer them unique and powerful volunteering opportunities. And there's nothing more inspiring for a child than having a teenage volunteer from their own community spurring them on to read."

Tom Hotston, 14, from Warrington, was one of the volunteers. He said: "I would never have thought I would have got involved in something like this. Doing it has really increased my confidence. And as well as helping younger children, it's helped my reading too. I use the library all the time now and take out books."

Claire Daly, the librarian at Padgate Library, helped Tom into the scheme. She said: "Projects like these are great for libraries. Once a few have started, people encourage their friends to come and it spreads. Each young person finds it helpful, and will have something to put on their CVs."