Read all about it: the Moreland reading project and the UK national reading campaigns.
Read in order to live Gustave Flaubert
As library professionals we embrace Flaubert's statement, but our challenge lies in spreading the reading message to the wider community. The Moreland reading project is an innovative approach to encouraging people to read more, inspired by and modelled on the national reading campaigns in the UK. We have interpreted reading in its broadest sense to include other languages and formats such as talking book and screen based mediums.
Essentially, the project promotes the message that reading is not only one of the fundamental building blocks of learning but one of the great pleasures in life. It aims to develop a community culture where the importance of reading is valued and acknowledged. The project has also contributed to celebrating Moreland's identity and showcasing the life experiences of its residents.
During 2000, the project featured monthly themes and related activities to promote reading. The broad range of themes was aimed at appealing to all sections of the community and included Seen the picture, now read the book; Murder, mystery and mayhem focusing on crime fiction and literature; Other people, other places focusing on armchair travel and There's more to reading than books which promoted alternative reading formats.
Monthly activities were organised by small volunteer theme teams across Moreland's five service points, giving staff the opportunity to expand their skills and use their imagination and creativity in a way that is not often possible with their existing roles. The theme teams model also enhanced communication between the different branch libraries. A project officer with an events and marketing background was employed in late 1999 and shared her considerable marketing and promotions knowledge with staff, again increasing the staff skills base.
From the topical and informative, to the escapist and experimental, the project has hosted a vast range of activities in English and other languages to appeal to the diverse Moreland community. Events have included talks by local and international authors as well as workshops varying from recording your own music, poetry writing, parenting, tracing the history of your house, to self publishing.
Other activities have included film nights, fun monthly competitions, launches of new materials in other languages, special children's storytimes and workshops. A feature has been colourful cultural activities including Croatian, Indonesian and Sinhalese launches and performances.
Apart from activities, reading lists have been produced including annotated bibliotherapies listing books to help children deal with such social issues as bullies and bullying, fears and phobias, death and dying and divorce and the changing family. These lists have been distributed free to every child care centre, kindergarten and primary school in Moreland.
One simple activity attracting much interest from library users was Where have the staff behind the counter been? featuring holiday photographs of staff and their account of places they have visited as part of the Other people, other places theme.
It was the general community's turn to share experiences with the Books that changed my life competition. The four winning entries, including an under 16 category, were featured in the local newspapers. All 140 entries were displayed at the libraries and a list of titles produced following a groundswell of interest from the community.
From initial planning stages, the project was intended to be a community wide initiative coordinated by the library, providing a focus for community groups to promote their own reading related activities. Neighbourhood houses, Moreland Adult Education Association, the environmental park Ceres and the Italian Drama Company are some of the groups which have linked into the project. Student groups and local citizens have also utilised its promotion to organise their own reading and writing related activities.
A good example of a linked activity by a community organisation was an innovative two month Stretching stories program at the Brunswick neighbourhood house which involved sharing stories while doing gentle exercises. The collection of stories from participants was published at the end of the program. The house also held reading and writing workshops on hair which culminated in an amateur theatre production consisting of a series of amusing cynical skits on hair and advertising.
Other diverse activities included the Italian Drama Company giving a box of Italian books as a lucky door prize at each of its ten performances. A staff member from Ceres led a group of all ages from the Fawkner Library along the Merri creek to learn about the creek's history. A local resident set up a book study club at the Campbell Turnbull Library. A group of Victoria University students living in Moreland used Glenroy Library as the venue in which to read out their work from their professional writing and editing class.
Apart from these activities which directly relate to reading, other groups have given demonstrations while the library has set up displays of reading materials relevant to the subject. For example as part of the theme Be a sport--read all about it! sporting demonstrations took place including a demonstration of bocce in the middle of the Brunswick Library by two members from the East Brunswick Bocce Club.
As well as linking in with community groups and organisations, the project has made a concerted effort to showcase individuals in the community. Local authors, including Shane Maloney, Fiona Capp and Damien Broderick, have taken part but wherever possible the library has sought to launch the books of its local writers both in English and in other languages. Book launches have included a teenage novel Asking for trouble by Mary Pershall and an Arabic book highlighting the history of Lebanese immigration to Australia written by the Consul General of Lebanon Dr Tannous Aoun. The history of Moreland fact sheets compiled by local historian Laurie Burchell, which targeted local students, were also funded and distributed free by the library to local schools and other relevant organisations.
Apart from local authors, the project has invited individuals from a variety of backgrounds to share their experiences or interests with other members of the community. These activities have included
* Moreland tapestries--a panel of residents from varied cultural backgrounds, ranging from 16 years to 60 years of age, who spoke about their lives and experiences of first coming to Australia
* From Glenroy to East Timor--a talk by a nurse from Glenroy on her time spent in East Timor as an aid worker
* Reading our Aboriginal past--a discussion of the Aboriginal history of the Moreland area by a member of the local Wurundjeri People
* monthly talks by residents about growing up in Brunswick or working in Brunswick as part of the Talks on Brunswick series.
Links with other council departments
The project has also linked with other council departments and drawn upon the talents of individuals for activities. A staff member from parks and gardens gave a talk on gardening, another from waste services gave a talk on rubbish and recycling while the public relations manager, who has a degree in cinema and history, gave a talk on taming books into film. The library has also worked closely with aged services, council's access and equity staff, recreation services and youth services. One joint project with aged services, senior supermodels, featured senior residents strutting their stuff on the cat walk at Glenroy Library while modelling fashion through the ages. Our closest partnership, however, involves the maternal and child health nurses without whom the main highlight of the project would not be possible--the Moreland BookStart kit program.
The BookStart kit
The BookStart kit was launched in August 2000 and has sufficient funding to continue until the end of 2002. It is modelled on the UK scheme of the same name which is coordinated by the Book Trust and aimed at encouraging parents and carers to read to babies. The BookStart kit is distributed to every newborn Moreland baby through the maternal and child health nurses. The kit, complete with calico library bag, features a board book and advice on developing children's reading skills from an early age as well as information on parenting resources. Where possible, a bilingual board book is provided for Lote speakers. The library's booklet contained in the kit--Reading is forever: how to develop your child's reading skills and have fun together--is also available free to all Moreland residents, schools and centres.
The BookStart kit has been overwhelmingly successful and has been the source of the most accolades about the Moreland reading project. Results from a survey with 300 respondents, found that 35 per cent of parents began to read to theft babies for the first time as a result of the kit while 60 per cent began reading to theft babies more often.
A number of other library services have implemented, or are planning to implement, similar BookStart schemes and it is hoped that one day Australia may follow the UK lead and with sponsorship, establish a national rollout of this worthwhile project. The original 1992 recipients of the BookStart kit in Birmingham are being tracked against a control group. Given that this research has revealed that BookStart children are consistently performing better at school than the control group, including at mathematics, there seems no better project to give children a good start to education and life skills.
The Moreland Library Service intends to become affiliated with the Book Trust's BookStart program, thereby drawing on its considerable expertise and research. The library will also introduce 10-15 minute rhyme time sessions for babies based on UK models which will reinforce the messages in the BookStart kits.
Diversity and attendances
Theme teams were encouraged to include a variety of activities to be inclusive of Moreland's different age groups and cultural backgrounds and also promote a range of reading formats. A mixture of daytime and evening events was to be represented as well as a mix of activities at all five branches. Normal library programs, including school holiday activities, were to incorporate the monthly themes so that they could be included in the project's listing of events. With all of these criteria in mind, it is little wonder that in 2000 an average of three activities were staged a week, leaving a proud but very exhausted staff by the end of the year. This led to the resolution to rationalise the number of activities in 2001.
Most events have attracted good attendances but we have also encountered poorly attended activities. Attendances have ranged from 5 to 250 and we have resigned ourselves to the fact that no matter how well you know your community, there will be misjudgments. Of course there are always chance factors. One event we believed would attract about 100 people only attracted 35 because it coincided with the hottest night of the year. Another event had only 15 bookings but over 200 people arrived one Saturday afternoon, resulting in a dash to the supermarket to purchase more drink and cups.
We are aware that other libraries charge or request donations for their activities or author talks to recoup costs but we have never done so. Although Moreland does have some wealthy or more affluent pockets, there is a number of deprived areas. Charges would deter many people from attending and defeat the aim of the project.
In 2000 $8,500 was allocated to funding all library activities, apart from the BookStart kit which was funded from the library's book budget. This figure does not include printing and promotion costs but is still comparatively small given the number of activities staged. Clearly the project has been fortunate in attracting or negotiating a number of activities with reduced or no costs.
Change of direction
In 2001 it was decided to dispense with monthly themes and focus more on other areas including special weeks such as senior citizens week and community safety week. This change of direction has not proven to be as successful and the framework of themes has been reintroduced in 2002, although bimonthly and trimonthly themes will be favoured over monthly themes. Although the project has organised several innovative programs and events this year, it has appeared too amorphous to some members in the community with no catchy thematic hooks on which to hang the project. Another drawback was the lack of opportunity for other staff outside the adult, multicultural and children's teams to become involved in organising events but this will be addressed in the reversion to themes.
A variety of methods is being used to promote the project including press releases, radio interviews, Tshirts, postcards, the library's home page and colourful brochures and flyers. The branding of the project has been an important element and our Read more logo (a play on Moreland) is used for all promotion. Each monthly theme in 2000 had an associated image, with care taken to ensure that the calendar of images was representative of Moreland's diversity. Consequently it included people from various age groups, cultural backgrounds and alternative lifestyles as well as local identities including the mayor.
In addition, targeted promotional events have occurred with staff dressed as theme related storybook characters distributing flyers in shopping centres and parks. Publicity in other languages has been particularly successful with segments on SBS radio in Chinese, Croatian, Indonesian, Italian and Turkish as well as through other Lote media.
The project has been immensely successful on several levels, although probably more so in 2000. It has received positive support and feedback from the community as well as lifting the library's profile with council. There is not a member of council who does not have a high awareness of it. It has increased the standing of the library as an important community centre and built or strengthened links with other groups and council departments. The project has received an enormous amount of publicity and the library finds itself in the position of being chased by the local press for articles. It has also increased the staff skills base as well as boosting their morale, particularly after the library was awarded the 2000 Alia award for innovation in public libraries.
However, although the project has been successful on a number of fronts, its main aim has always been to encourage people to read more, but this measurement is problematic. Due to budgetary and time constraints, the library did not undertake sufficient marketing research. It should have at least conducted a number of focus groups prior to the commencement of the project to be used later as an indicator in trying to ascertain if people are reading more because of it.
The question must also be asked, do a number of one off activities, no matter how innovative, encourage a reading habit? Perhaps for some people they may, for many others perhaps not. The BookStart kit is at least one program, and probably the most critical one, where the library knows it has made a difference in encouraging parents and carers to read to their babies. Hence the project's need to implement similar longer term programs to supplement individual activities that will genuinely encourage an ongoing reading habit.
It was the search for innovative longer term reading programs that took me to the UK in May 2001 to undertake a six week study tour of the national reading campaigns and bring back ideas for the Moreland reading project.
National year of reading (NYR) and National reading campaign (NRC)
There is insufficient space to devote to discussing the wealth of reading programs encountered in the UK, a number of which will be introduced in Moreland. Instead, noted here are some of the simpler adult programs. The full report containing details of numerous programs is available if readers email me email@example.com.
The national year of reading in the UK spanned September 1998 to August 1999 and continued as the national reading campaign. It was announced by the Blair government as a key element of its national literacy strategy and policy on lifelong learning.
Part of the philosophy behind the national year of reading was to emphasise that the whole community has a role to play in supporting the work of teachers and schools in developing literacy skills, and in celebrating the joy of reading from an early age.
Another factor was to contribute to the government's lifelong learning policies by stressing that reading is not just for school, but for life. The government was keen for the year to reach out to those adults who have difficulty with reading to improve their life chances and sense of fulfillment.
A budget of 4 million [pounds sterling] was allocated for the national year of reading over three financial years. This was to cover the cost of a public relations company, a fund for selected projects, marketing and publicity, and project management for the year and the following two years. It is a relatively small sum for such a scheme but it was hoped that the creation of a high profile campaign would reach the widest possible audience and generate additional sponsorship in the process, which it did. An additional 115 million [pounds sterling] was allocated for the purchase of books for every school.
The National Literacy Trust, an independent nonprofit organisation established in 1992, was contracted to deliver the year on behalf of the Department for Education and Employment. The team approached key partners in education, libraries, the arts, business, the book trade and sports, youth and voluntary organisations. It established a point of contact in each local authority.
Funding was allocated to a variety of projects and to a range of organisations including community groups, libraries, prisons, voluntary sectors, county councils and schools. Other initiatives were established with funding from other sources. Sainsbury's supermarkets gave 6 million to fund a two year nationwide distribution of the BookStart project. A number of businesses supported the year in a variety of ways using their own funds. The telephone company Orange encouraged workplace reading groups and a host of companies signed up to have their staff act as reading volunteers in local schools. A bus company displayed poems in its buses for commuters to read and a chain of butchers gave away a book on presentation of three dockets.
Significant impetus was given to the year by a major television advertising campaign and radio advertisements. The central message was that A little reading goes a long way. An accompanying booklet under that title was distributed through a freephone number and through post offices, supermarkets and doctors' waiting rooms, resulting in the circulation of nearly three million copies.
Apart from television advertisements, the reading message was boosted by the popular television programs Brookside and Hollyoaks. These incorporated literacy storylines in their scripts and also promoted a helpline which elicited a substantial response (over 10,000 viewers with literacy difficulties after one series of episodes). Famous names, from sporting heroes to popular actors, lent their support to the year and became involved as high profile role models, many featuring on posters promoting reading. In short, a host of mediums and programs was initiated to create a positive image of reading at every level.
The year generated a phenomenal level of activity throughout the country at national, regional and local levels. In many areas public libraries took a lead role resulting in raising the profile of libraries with their local authorities and within the nation as a whole. Libraries forged a number of new partnerships with community organisations, schools and businesses. The year also served to re energise librarians and encourage them to reconsider their roles, with reading being reclaimed as an important activity. Libraries rated the year as an outstanding success overall.
Although government project funds for reading programs were only given during the NYR, the DCMS/Wolfson public libraries challenge fund made 2 million [pounds sterling] available in 2000/2001 and again in 2001/2002 in recognition of the invaluable contribution of reading programs organised by public libraries. In the past this fund, which is made available from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and a private funding body (Wolfson), had focused primarily on information technology projects. Thus libraries with successful bids were able to build on programs piloted during NYR or turn to other innovative programs encouraging reading.
Freelance companies and consultants
The UK is in the fortunate position of having some highly creative freelance reader development companies and consultants who serve as inspirational leaders and trainers. Many innovative reading programs in UK libraries would not have eventuated without their influence. Rachel van Riel and Miranda McKearney are well known in the UK for their work in this area, particularly Rachel who tamed to concentrate on reader development in the late 1980s, and indeed coined the term. She founded the company Opening the Book in 1991 which pioneered the reader development movement in the UK, working with libraries, literature funders and promoters, booksellers and publishers. Miranda is development director of the reader development agency Well Worth Reading and library development organisations The Reading Partnership and LaunchPad.
The term reader development has existed for some time in the UK. Its core meaning signifies proactive intervention to develop and broaden people's reading interests rather than just programs that promote reading.
Opening the Book defines reader development as `active intervention to open up reading choices, increase readers' enjoyment, offer opportunities for people to share their reading experiences and raise the stares of reading as a creative activity'. Furthermore it claims that
... reader development is audience development for literature. It sells the reading experience and what it can do for you, rather than selling individual books or writers. It builds the audience for literature by moving readers beyond brand loyalty to individual writers, helping them develop the confidence to try something new.
With the growing reader development movement, the Society of Chief Librarians applied for funding for a three year program to train staff and support the movement. Subsequently 300,000 [pounds sterling] was received from the national lottery through the Arts Council of England and Opening the Book won the contract to deliver the project commencing in late 1998--coinciding, with excellent timing, with the national Year of Reading. The national project is known as Branching out and involves 33 English library authorities as well as the National Library for the Blind, although the project benefits all library authorities with its dissemination of information on new practices.
Branching out librarians are being trained to develop structures for integrated approaches to book purchase, circulation and promotion to achieve best value from the bookstock. Staff are being trained not to simply ask `Is there a demand for this book?' but, `Can I create a demand?'. They are constantly prompted to think about what happens to a book once it is on the shelf in order to open their minds to ways of meeting new needs.
Some of the key messages from the libraries regarding effective reader development do not involve rocket science--simply a return to basics involving book displays, the manner in which collections are presented and book reviewing mechanisms.
Book displays in the UK tend to be given a high priority, with the initial driving force coming from initiatives from the library development and reader development agencies Well Worth Reading and Opening the Book. Each agency produces packages for sale which include bookstock, different sized posters, shelf stickers/labels, postcards, bookmarks, book review cards and an optional cardboard display unit. Well Worth Reading also provides colourful professional booklists. The display themes have included Shaken and stirred: wonderfully moving books to shake and inspire you and the provocative It's a man thing ... isn't it? The material produced by the agencies is of the highest quality but economies of scale make it affordable for libraries to mount eye catching professional displays.
Booklists are increasingly being used to tempt readers to broaden their reading interests, by shifting away from specific genre lists to mixed booklists promoting both contemporary and classic fiction under quirky headings. Some interesting headings included The seven deadly sins with related books under greed and sloth, Books about people more miserable than me and Real corkers: cooks to tempt the palate listing books as well as recommended wines to drink while reading them.
Many UK libraries are following bookstores by having dedicated collections where the books are displayed face outwards. Naturally these collections are more attractive and eye catching than row upon row of spines. UK libraries that have changed particular collections to face out display have found their usage spiral upwards. An example is Croydon Libraries which has 70 per cent of its face out stock on loan at any one time. As Rachel van Riel states, book covers are designed to sell and we should be featuring covers rather than trying to hide them.
Reader to reader recommendations
As part of the reader development movement great emphasis has been placed on reader to reader recommendations. Libraries have set up reading groups which have had a phenomenal snowballing effect with reading groups activating more groups as more individuals decide to join. The 74 branches of Essex Libraries held 30 reading groups in 1998 but now boast over 170 groups, and growing.
The work of the reading groups does not stop with the groups themselves. Library newsletters and noticeboards contain book reviews from the groups, as well as other library users. A publisher has even sought out the groups to read proof copies from first time authors and then used the reader's reviews on the back cover of the final publication. Reading groups are not confined to adult readers. There is also a large number of teenage reading groups and family reading groups.
Libraries have encouraged reader to reader reviews by placing review cards in books. These plans only work if the library makes it clear that one does not have to write an essay, but just a couple of lines. There are many ways libraries can encourage reader to reader recommendations. We must not forget the power of this form of reader to reader promotion--the interest in trolleys of recent returns is an indication!
It was refreshing to hear Opening the Book criticise some of the snobbery that can be involved in reading recommendations by libraries. The company affirms that
... the best book in the world is simply the best book you've ever read! It may never have been in a bestseller list or awarded a prestigious prize. It's simply the best book in the world because that's what you thought when you finished reading it.
Just as our moods dictate what we want to wear or what film we want to see, so too do our moods dictate our reading choices. A book that is right for late night bedtime reading may not suit you when sitting on the beach. At some stages we may feel like challenging books. At other times our mood may be for something light or escapist. Therefore all of our promotions should reflect this spread of reading, and we should not be judgemental about reader to reader recommendations.
Perfect partners and blind dates
Some fun reader development programs trialed in the UK involve very simple but highly effective hooks. Rachel Van Riel recommends that libraries tempt their readers to try books that they normally would not pick up through a lucky dip approach using a catchy hook. Rachel's `Have a blind date with a book' or `Have a one night stand with a book' has been tried by many UK libraries with great interest and success. Interesting, but little used, books are wrapped in newspaper with the barcode written on the newspaper. Readers borrow the book but have no idea what it is or what it is about until they unwrap it at home.
Other libraries have tried the `Perfect partner' approach, tying a guide book on Greece to a mystery novel set in Greece, linking a romance novel with love poetry and tying a crime novel with a book on real life crime.
IT and reader development
Many projects have embraced technology as a tool to promote reading books and foster reading development, rather than viewing the internet as a threat to traditional forms of reading. Branching out has established an innovative web site Forager www. branching-out.net/forager. This enables readers to find titles matching graded criteria they have chosen to suit their reading mood. For example, you can request a book which contains a lot of humour, a touch of romance, an escapist storyline but with a surprise ending. Another time you may be more in the mood for a challenging read based around people from other cultures with a bit of sex thrown in. The Forager database selects titles best matching the criteria with a brief blurb to whet the would be reader's appetite. Forager is still a pilot database with limited titles but its potential is enormous. It represents one of the more exciting and innovative projects capitalising on technology to promote reader development.
Another impressive marrying of IT with reading is the website for children Stories from the web. This extraordinary site allows children to interact directly with authors, illustrators, publishers and other bodies. Children can ask questions and comment on books, stories, illustrations and book covers and receive answers and comments back. They can write their own stories and book reviews and post them on the web and keep their own reading records.
Programs for youth
Youth is one of the more difficult groups to spread the reading message to, particularly teenage boys. One of the keys to encourage youth to read is to present role models who give positive reading messages. Liverpool organised a particularly impressive campaign, with a series of posters featuring popular identities from television and sport reading which were displayed on the back of buses.
Leeds has gone a step further with the creation of the Leeds United book challenge--a joint project between the Leeds. United Football Club and Leeds Library and Information Service launched in May 2001. The challenge is open to all ages but is very attractive to upper primary aged children and youth, and particularly boys. The project consists of five challenges--one a month to help build a reading habit and including reading three books every month. A player card is collected after completing each challenge and there are various prize draws along the way featuring signed Tshirts, free tickets to home matches and other football materials.
Leeds United paid for the printing and design of the posters, brochures and cards. The club has donated numerous prizes and has made available a key player for the launch and finale of the project. The player selected for the launch was described as an inspirational speaker by library staff. His speech was pitched at the children and youth present. In speaking about his own reading experiences and the value of reading, he presented a very positive role model.
Reading into the future
Australia has much to learn from the success of the reading campaigns in the UK and much to gain from lobbying government to facilitate similar campaigns. If we are to develop a culture where the importance of reading is acknowledged and viewed as one of the great pleasures of life, this message needs to be spread at both local and national levels. We can start making an impact by engaging the local community in reading but we need to follow the UK's example to truly build a nation of readers.
National Literacy Trust Building a nation of readers: a review of the national year of reading London, National Literacy Trust 2000
Genimaree Panozzo is community relations librarian and team leader of the Moreland reading project at Moreland City Libraries. She has a background of over ten years in multicultural library services which has included serving on the working group on multicultural library services (Victoria) and the statewide Lote library project advisory group, serving as chair on both. Genimaree was awarded the Margery C Ramsay Scholarship in 2000 by the Library Board of Victoria to travel to the UK to study the national reading campaigns. Address: PO Box 113 Coburg Vic 3058 tel(03)92401246 fax(03)93542159 firstname.lastname@example.org
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2002|
|Previous Article:||A national reading development strategy ... where to?|
|Next Article:||Passion, practice, partnership and politics: marketing the future of public libraries.|