As a kid I revelled in the annual summer reading scheme.

What? Read books and get rewards just for reading? Good grief!

As an adult I’m not convinced. I love libraries, but not everybody does. I know plenty of young people that wouldn’t set foot inside the public library. That shouldn’t mean the library can’t reach them though.  A library should be a central hub of information, both digitally and in reality.

The other problem with summer reading schemes is that they don’t reflect enough, they don’t reflect on what the library does or what its  users are interested in. Libraries are more than books. They are also about what you choose to do with the information afterwards. That’s not just reading, that’s advanced applied literacy.

A year or so ago I read about a public library that challenged its teenage readers to reach a certain level on the FreeRice website as part of a series of summer challenges. I thought this was a brilliant idea and squirrelled it away for the future.

I discussed the idea with colleagues on a couple of occasions and tried to find additional challenges for my own school, but it was hard-going and pretty much stalled at the ‘here’s some interesting websites for you to look at over the holidays’ blog posts.

Then at our last librarians’ business meeting, we were told that the normal summer reading programme wouldn’t be particularly relevant for secondary children this year and asked to suggest alternatives.

A bunch of us got together and took the original idea and squished and stretched it into a usable shape, set up a blog, squidged it some more, wrote a number of challenges, identified relevant experiences and outcomes, rewrote challenges, reorganised the blog, argued about how it should work, and then argued some more about how it should work (I don’t mind arguing like this, although I frequently have to double check what it is that we’ve actually agreed on).

The result is a rather cool and imaginative set of challenges, even if I do say so myself, which encourage young people to spend their holidays creating, exploring and yes, reading, about things of interest to them.We’re not denying the importance or relevance of books; in fact, we’re deliberately pointing out where more information can be found, online, in the local community and in the library.

Of course, it’s not me that it has to attract, so a lot depends on the target audience. Trials will take place over the summer holidays and without involving any of us, so the scheme has to stand on its own two feet.

Fingers crossed 🙂

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