We announced our 25th Anniversary gift of £1m to the Reading Agency, in July 2013. The Reading Agency works to inspire people to read more. It believes that confident and skilled readers have greater aspirations and opportunities, and that reading brings enjoyment and increases wellbeing.
Our gift was to expand and develop a UK-wide programme which enables young people to volunteer through their local libraries to encourage other young people to read more, and to increase the organisation’s digital capacity.
Building on the success of its Reading Activist initiative, the Reading Agency worked closely with young people to co-create Reading Hack. Reading Hack engaged young people aged 13-24 in reading by making it relevant to their passions and motivations, and supporting their personal and skills development. Working with local libraries and community organisations, young people took the lead to design and deliver creative events to engage their peers and younger participants in reading. Activities ranged from spoken word nights to author events to themed book clubs. Through volunteering, the young people developed their own skills, confidence and employability.
Since the programme began 27,000 young people have taken part as volunteers, cultural programmers and peer advocates, from 1,790 libraries across the UK. Young people felt responsible and trusted, whilst still receiving the support they needed. Reading Hack significantly improved participants’ confidence and sense of community belonging.
The ideas around youth engagement in libraries tried and tested through Reading Hack have become embedded throughout the work of the Reading Agency – in their day-to-day operating practices and the organisation’s interactions with young people across all their programmes.
To find out more about the impact of this adaptable model of locally-owned and youth-led activities, read the Evaluation of the Reading Hack Programme 2015-18.