To read more about the key activities in Warwickshire read the article Achievements in Warwickshire 2008
To read more about how the NYR was delivered and with which partners read the article Delivery of NYR in Warwickshire
Establishing senior support for Warwickshire's National Year of Reading
A steering group for NYR was formed early on as a result of firm commitment across directorates in the authority and using partnerships established in earlier projects, notably the Switched on to Reading project with looked after children.
Commitment and funding was agreed from two directorates - Children, Young People and Families, which includes services to schools etc, and Adult, health and Community Serives which includes libraries as well as adult social care. The NYR Co-ordinator was seconded from the library service to work across the authority.
These had been forged with Warwickshire's Education Service to Looked After Children (TELAC), fostering and adoption service and county arts service in the Switched on to Reading project.
Long-standing partnerships were also called on:
- Schools Library Service
- adult and community learning
- adult social care.
The corporate communications team also came on board.
Councillors were invited and two have since been very supportive of NYR activities, one on the steering group.
Business in the Community (Coventry and Warwickshire) are also represented on the steering group.
Gaining support - paper presented to Strategic Directors Leadership Team
A proposal was submitted and approved to the Strategic Directors Leadership Team, and this gave a good basis for securing the cross-directorate support and commitment to NYR.
This was as follows:
Strategic Directors Leadership Team
6 February 2008
Joint report of the Strategic Director, AHCS and CYPF
- That WCC endorses plans for the NYR and establishment of a cross-directorate steering group with AHCS (Libraries) as lead partner
- That a minimum budget of £20,000 is allocated corporately to support this initiative
- That WCC refers NYR proposals to the Public Services Board, in order to embed plans in the LAA
- That WCC promotes the NYR to Members by involving them in events and to the wider community through branding on publicity and communications
- That WCC considers additional funding to the above to enhance activities and the impact of the NYR on as wide a number of the target audience as possible
The 2008 National Year of Reading (NYR)
“In particular I see local leadership as being absolutely central to ensuring that this year makes a difference in our communities. Local authorities are the ones who can bring all the threads together, driving and co-ordinating all local activity to include all local partners and involve all local families.”
Jim Knight, Minister for Schools National Year of Reading Stakeholders Conference, 24th October 2007
The 2008 National Year of Reading (NYR) is a high profile campaign instituted by the DCSF and managed by the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency. Partners at national level include the major agencies involved in both literacy and reading promotion, including MLA, NIACE and Booktrust. The NYR relates to a number of government policies, including Every Child Matters, extended schools, 14-19 reforms and World Class Skills.
The DCSF’s aim is:
“to encourage more people to read in the widest sense – from books, magazines and newspapers to the Internet and other digital technology – and people to read more, by promoting a culture of reading for pleasure and purpose.”
This combination of both pleasure and purpose distinguishes this campaign from others where reading is seen solely as the reading of works of fiction. Crucial to NYR is the understanding that reading is a necessity for all aspects of an individual’s life, not just education and reading for pleasure, but also accessing information and using a computer both for daily living and to enable full participation as a twenty-first century citizen.
Although running throughout 2008, the NYR recognises the need for preparation, so the public launch will be in April when it is thought all local authorities will be ready to run their local campaigns. The NYR has identified national monthly themes, to which events can be linked (e.g. ‘mind and body’ in May, ‘screen reads’ in November). In addition in April there will be a national library membership drive where individuals can cut out a coupon from their newspaper or magazine and take it along to their local library and join up with a minimum of form-filling. These will be enormously helpful in raising the profile of activities at a local level.
The NYR aims specifically to focus on:
- Demonstrating the importance of literacy skills
- Encouraging boys to feel more enthusiastic about reading
- Encouraging and enabling young parents (particularly men) to understand the importance of reading with their children and giving them the confidence to do this
- Encouraging adult literacy particularly as a means to engaging with formal learning opportunities.
At a local level library services are in the main co-ordinating activities and opportunities across local authorities in conjunction with schools, adult learning services and existing partners in reading promotion.
2.0 Warwickshire’s objectives and the NYR
Warwickshire County Council’s vision and objectives accord with the aims of the NYR, in particular, the three aspects of the vision outlined in the Local Area Agreement (LAA):
- Listening to Warwickshire
- Narrowing the gap
- Access to services.
Within these there are outcomes for six blocks of activity within the LAA. One of these blocks is ‘Children and Young People’ where outcomes include:
- Develop the educational attainment of Warwickshire’s young people
- Close attainment gap for disadvantaged groups
- Reduce the percentage of 16-18-year-olds not in education, employment or training.
The ‘Stronger communities’ block includes the outcome:
- Vibrant communities where people are likely to access facilities, services and amenities locally and participate in community life through shared activities such as learning, sports, arts and volunteering
Through ‘Economic Development and Enterprise’ outcomes are:
- More adults with the skills and qualifications needed to be an effective member of Warwickshire’s workforce
- Reduce levels of worklessness amongst Warwickshire’s residents by improving access to employment opportunities and support for the most economically disadvantaged
For all these outcomes to be achieved, both the ability to read and understanding of the need to do so are key drivers. The NYR will enable activities and opportunities to be made available through its established partnerships within the county council and beyond.
A preliminary meeting has taken place between the Director of AHCS and Mark Gore, Head of Service, Education, Partnerships and School Development, where it was agreed together with the Head of Libraries, Learning and Culture that the appropriate way forward is for AHCS (Libraries) to lead by supplying the Co-ordinator for the Year’s activities.
The library service already works with a range of partner organisations. These include:
- Bookstart (and Booktrust promotion programmes with older children administered by Bookstart)
- Warwickshire Schools Library Service
- Children’s Centres
- The Reading Agency (Summer Reading Challenge)
- Compton Verney Art Gallery (Family Reader weekends)
- Midland Creative Partnerships
Further, the intention in Warwickshire is to focus particularly on the north area, particularly Nuneaton and Bedworth and rural areas of North Warwickshire where the ‘gap to be narrowed’ has been identified. The LAA notes that Nuneaton and Bedworth is the worst performer in by far the highest number of the sixteen indicators identified by the Public Service Board for quantifying the gap amongst Warwickshire’s communities and also confirms “that the north-south divide persists in Warwickshire.”
3.0 The NYR in Warwickshire
Discussion in WLIS and with partners has led to a decision to focus on target groups as follows:
- Looked after children (LACs)
- The North of the county [narrowing the gap]
- Boys and reading
- Family learning.
Looked after children have been the focus of the Paul-Hamlyn funded Switched on to Reading project which has enabled a number of Warwickshire’s 450 LACs to benefit from targeted activities in libraries, as well as promotion of a more sensitive library membership offer which recognises the difficulties for both LACs and their carers in accessing library services.
It is hoped that the NYR will enable this focus to continue, as LACs continue as a group to under-achieve at educational milestones, despite the potential in terms of their ability to do as well as their peers. The NYR will enable partnerships and links newly established in Switched on to Reading to be furthered quickly, so that a more immediate impact can be gained from the NYR.
Boys and young men are nationally known to be reluctant readers when compared with girls and adults as a whole. Opportunities for them to access reading through avenues other than works of fiction will be explored, both for those of school age as well as fathers. Some of this will be done through family learning opportunities.
It is hoped that the wealth of venues available through libraries and schools will enable high audience numbers to be reached. However, the project will also look at ways of taking reading opportunities beyond ‘institutions’ to other areas where people congregate. This might be workplaces, doctors’ surgeries, open spaces, even pubs.
The funding already pledged will enable a co-ordinator to work part-time and to run a number of events over the nine months of the NYR.
It is hoped that Warwickshire County Council will endorse fully the proposed activities for the NYR and will enhance the campaign by promoting appropriate publicity opportunities and branding of relevant documentation and advertising. It would also enhance the campaign if Council members were made aware of the aims of the NYR and invited to appropriate events.
The project could have greater impact with a higher level of funding. A key need will be for adequate publicity, always an expensive item, but known to repay dividends in terms of attracting audiences to activities. Positive publicity of this kind might also serve to raise the profile of council services as a whole.
Additional funding would also increase the number of events possible in the Year, not only by paying for authors or tutors, but also by freeing staff to administer events. The greater the concentration of events, the higher the likely impact of the Year.
It would also be encouraging to ‘pump-prime’ longer-term opportunities, for example courses or repeat activities where attendees can acquire skills and confidence in reading or in sharing reading over time. These work well with initial funding to set up, using existing staff or volunteers who can then carry on the work and embed it within their own programmes of work, beyond the NYR itself.
The NYR provides a rare and golden opportunity to work on the back of a planned national initiative to provide opportunities to enjoy and develop reading amongst the most needy people of Warwickshire.
“It’s not just the joy of reading, … it’s also the benefits of reading. It’s probably one of the best anti-poverty, anti-deprivation, anti-crime, anti-vandalism policies you can think of. … Let’s set a big ambition for this year that we do have millions more people aware of the importance of reading, and thousands more people who can’t read, reading.”
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister
Downing Street launch of NYR, 8th January 2008
Graeme Betts Marion Davies Strategic Director Strategic Director AHCS CYPF
Power from partnership
There is no doubt that the wide-ranging membership of the steering group as well as commitment and funding for a half-time dedicated NYR Co-ordinator post has helped us to sustain momentum for NYR activity in Warwickshire.
Further detail from Warwickshire's NYR Co-ordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.