Others

Being a Summer Reading Challenge Volunteer

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Hi fellow readers!

If, like me, you live somewhere in the United Kingdom and are a frequent visitor of your library (please be one! Libraries are amazing!), you might have seen posters appear, promoting the summer reading challenge.

But what is the summer reading challenge? Well, as you might have guessed, it’s a challenge aimed at children (most of the participants are between 5 and 10) to keep them reading during the summer holidays. Exciting, isn’t it? We didn’t have anything of the sort back home, and when I heard about it a couple of weeks ago, and heard that libraries were looking for volunteers, I quickly applied.

The thing is, Children’s Libraries are often very, very busy. In mine, there are rhyme times, storytelling times, and, of course, the regular young customers who always have an enquiry. This means that librarians don’t always have the time to promote and help with the summer reading challenge. But fear not, that’s where the volunteers appear!

The role of the volunteers is to encourage children to sign up for the reading challenge (it’s free, it’s fun, you can read whatever you want, there is a nice medal at the end; those are the best-selling arguments), to get them talking about what they like reading and what books they’ve already read, to actually sign them up, and to give them the prizes and stickers that they get when they’ve read a certain amount of books. In some libraries, you might also help with shelving books (I do in mine during quiet times, which is lots of fun, except for my knees and lower back), creating displays, and sometimes even helping librarians with activities.

As long as you speak English, even if it’s not perfectly, that you feel comfortable working with children, and that you’re between 13-24 years old, you can apply for a volunteering role. I believe that most libraries have now closed the applications, but it’s always worth dropping in and asking if there’s still some room for more volunteers – I’m pretty sure they won’t refuse!

I’ve now worked a few days as a volunteer. You’re encouraged to work 1-2 hours shifts, but as the library has AC, and my room doesn’t, and as I really do enjoy working with kids, I more often than not stay 5 or 6 hours. Of course, it’s not always busy, and it’s good to have a book with you for quiet times (that being said, being in a library has some advantages if you forget your book…), and to ask librarians whether there’s anything else you can help them with. Also, if, like me, you’re a pretty shy person, the first days are a bit awkward, up until you realise that children will rarely bite you, and that they don’t much care about your accent or grammar mistakes. I’ve met some adorable children, passionate about reading and ready to talk about their favourite books for hours. It’s also been good to discover the ”backstage” of a library, and interesting to see how librarians actually work – I was pretty surprised to learn that most librarians don’t do more than an hour shift with kids, so they don’t get too tired!

In summary, if reading is your thing, and you don’t mind spending time with children, I can only encourage you to sign up and help! Librarians will be very grateful, and I can promise it’s also a good experience as a volunteer. Not only does it add to your CV, it also helps you become more confident and patient!

The website https://readinghack.org.uk has some more info on volunteer roles if you’re interested, and you can also take a look at the official reading challenge website – this year, it’s all about space, and you’ll find it at http://www.spacechase.org.uk

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