The Reading Agency has unveiled a new programme called Reading Sparks programme which will donate science and technology book bags to low-income families particularly impacted by the pandemic.
The reading charity is working on the project with libraries, publishers and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and NUSTEM, a collaborative widening participation and outreach initiative at Northumbria University. The scheme will deliver the STEM-themed gift bags to families across the UK from 2021 to 2023. The gift bags include books for children of all ages with a STEM theme and accompanying activities for families to complete over the summer.
Participating publishers include Walker Books, Usborne, BSmall, Raintree, Gecko and Otter Barry with featured titles by Serena Patel, Roger McGough and Vivian French among others. The STFC has funded the coordination of the gifting as part of the Reading Sparks programme and contributed Unmasked: The Science of Superheroes, co-authored by seven scientists.
Altogether 17 library services across England, the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland will distribute the gift bags. Library services will deliver the packs via a variety of partners and engagement activities, including food banks, refugee support schemes and via holiday activities and food programmes they are running in their local areas.
The Reading Agency said it hopes the scheme will "bridge the gap in science capital for families from lower socio-economic groups, teenage girls and BAME communities".
C.e.o. Karen Napier said: “Our exciting new Reading Sparks programme is demonstrating the role that reading can play in sparking science engagement across the country, especially in areas with low science capital.
“This year children and families need support over the summer holidays more than ever. This gift forms part of our commitment to supporting the Covid recovery for those in greatest need and supporting learning and aspiration across all communities, but it wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of publishers, the support of library services across the country and of our funders Arts Council England and STFC.”
Sue Williamson, director of libraries at Arts Council England said: “Arts Council England is proud to support the Reading Agency and the Reading Sparks programme which is helping young people who have been severely affected by the pandemic, reaching into some of the most deprived areas across the UK. Library services are the heart of the community and are fundamental in supporting people through the recovery from Covid.”
For more information on the scheme, visit the Reading Agency website.