The Reading Agency has received backing from the Arts Council and the Science, Technology & Facilities Council to "channel the power of reading" by bringing science skills and learning to new audiences of children and young people.
The multi-disciplinary project is a bid to introduce new audiences to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through the arts and reading and it has has received £289,411 in funding from ACE's National Lottery Project Grants and £50,000 from the Science, Technology & Facilities Council, thus representing a joint investment to tackle the challenge of raising engagement in science among disadvantaged communities.
Marking what has been described "an important step change in the STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Maths) agenda", the programme is estimated to reach 219,115 people including 4,000 children and young people in disadvantaged communities.
It is supported by a wide range of organisations, including the British Science Association, Libraries Connected, STEM Ambassadors, The Natural History Museum, the British Library, DK Publishing, Walker Books and Nosy Crow. Meanwhile ambassadors for the project are: Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a British scientist and educator who presents The BBC's "Sky At Night"; Greg Foot, who has created science engagement broadcasts for CBBC and BBC3; and Professor Hugh Montgomery, s specialist in intensive care medicine.
Science engagement and participation is lower among lower socioeconomic groups, teenage girls and BME communities, according to The Reading Agency. Referring to the 2017 Social Mobility Commission Report, it reported only 15% of scientists, 21% of engineers, 9% of doctors and 6% of life science professionals come from working-class backgrounds.
Sue Williamson, director, Libraries, Arts Council England, commented: "As the national development agency for libraries, Arts Council England is delighted to support this project which uses the richly representative audience that libraries attract to bring together science, love of reading and creativity to help children and families see that science is fun and exciting. We know that science and creativity are very closely linked but that science is often something that people lose interest in in once they leave school and hope that this project will encourage an interest and help to develop a lasting love for science in people of all ages.
"We're particularly pleased that we are partnering with the Science & Technology Facilities Council, the Natural History Museum, Springer Nature, the British Science Association and Dorling Kindersley alongside such a stellar communicator as Greg Foot. We are also thrilled that Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Professor Hugh Montgomery have agreed to be ambassadors."
Karen Napier, Reading Agency c.e.o., added: "We have been successful in receiving support from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants for a ground-breaking new STREAM project. This is such an inspiring and important partnership with Arts Council England and we are excited to be working with a wide range of leading organisations including the British Science Association, DK Publishing, The Natural History Museum, the British Library and Libraries Connected. This project will see us continuing to benefit communities across the country, encouraging young people and their families to engage in science through the proven power of reading. We look forward to sharing this new work with our networks as it develops over the next three years."