Monday, 30 June 2014

The real Summer Reading Challenge? Lari Don

Exactly a week ago, I was privileged to launch the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland (I needed to take a deep breath every time I said that!) in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. In case the title doesn’t make it clear, it’s the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge, in Scotland, sponsored by Tesco Bank. I was also privileged to also launch the local Summer Reading Challenge in Dundee two days later.
Launching the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland

This year’s theme is Mythical Maze. And there couldn’t be a better theme for me – I write collections of myths and legends, I write contemporary adventures inspired by old myths, and one of my books even has a Maze in the title.

So that’s probably why I was asked to launch this year’s theme and challenge in Scotland. (And yes, I know it seems a bit early to all of you south of the border, but we grab summer earlier up here in Scotland, so the schools are already out and the libraries are already challenging kids to read books during the holidays.)

The launches were all positive and smiley. I met kids who had done previous challenges and were keen to do it again (which was great) and I met kids who had never done it before but were keen to give it a go it this year (which was even better.) So I had hoped to post a really cheerful blog for you all about summer and reading, with these wonderful illustrations by Sarah MacIntyre.
With lovely librarian Ruth in Dundee, and a dragon behind us.

But when I posted pictures of me with posters and books and dragons and kids online last week, someone who had been involved in a campaign that I supported to keep their local library open, a campaign that sadly failed, contacted me to say, this is lovely, Lari, but what about the kids who don’t have a local library any more? 

And I didn’t have an answer. Sad face emoticons don’t really do it.

The Summer Reading Challenge brightens up and invigorates libraries all over the country and allows them to run fun family-focussed events. The different themes every year make reading relevant and exciting to lots of different children. Kids get involved, families get involved, authors get involved. It’s a brilliant scheme. Well done the Reading Agency for organising it, and Tesco Bank for supporting it in Scotland. But it can’t reach every child, because not every child has access to a library.

And perhaps that’s the real challenge for all of us.

I had intended to write a really cheerful summery sunny post for all you Awfully Big Blog fans, but the shadow over it is that even the best things we do with books can’t and don’t reach everyone. Not until we make sure every single child has access to a library.

So clearly my challenge is to get away from that dragon breathing down my neck and take up my sword again on the subject of library closures.

In the meantime, have a fun summer, losing yourself in mazes and finding new myths!

(Lari is now away polishing her sword…)

Lari Don is an occasional library campaigner, and also the award-winning author of 21 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers.
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Ngọc Nguyễn said...

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Andrew Preston said...

"..... Access to a library for every single child."

Now that is what I call a campaign message.

milliganheather8 said...

Absolutely. I know that we're on opposite sides of Scotland's current big political debate, but this is the kind of issue that transcends other political divides. And UK-wide as well. Not sure what the most achievable solution is - ring-fenced funding for libraries? More creative use of mobile libraries and community centres in remote areas? I wonder if in the short term Tesco Bank could be persuaded of the immense feel-good advertising factor they could get if they sponsored some form of library provision in the areas that have none?

Lari Don said...

Interesting idea Heather - asking organisations to sponsor library provision (or perhaps at least summer library provision, to match the summer reading challenge elsewhere...) Definitely worth discussing! But in some ways I feel the same about that as I do about community volunteer-run libraries replacing closed down public libraries - it's wonderful when people come together to fill in the gaps, and it's certainly better than no library provision at all, but it simply shouldn't be necessary because decent local libraries should be provided as a right for local people by local councils! But a thought worth pursuing in this imperfect world where councils see libraries as a easy cut to make... And thanks Andrew for picking out a campaign message! (The referendum debate in Scotland must be making me think in soundbites!)

Andrew Preston said...

In my opinion, make banks learn how to run themselves properly, and let Tescos learn how to offer goods at reasonable prices, and treat their stuff well.

Do you really want your local library, or other public services , run by these outfits.

The kind of thing that would be applauded by those in Westminster who.., 150 years ago vigorously opposed public libraries on the basis that they would make the working classes restive. (Today's political translation : hard working people ).

How has it come to this? The infection of 'the markets'.

milliganheather8 said...

Just to be clear, I'm not proposing long-term corporate sponsorship or voluntary provision, I just wonder if there can be an interim solution to allow children to access the current reading challenge - and longer-term work towards central funding ring-fenced for library provision.