Leeds has embarked on a mission: A mission to inspire and encourage children and young people across the city to engage with the amazing world of reading and stories. Since the launch of our Year of Reading in September 2019, schools, children’s centres, universities, libraries, the city council, children and parents (to name just a few!) have participated in a series of exciting events and initiatives. To start the year off with a bang we had a launch event at Shakespeare Primary School, attended by colleagues from Booktrust, teachers, councillors, storytellers, songwriters and children from schools across the city. This was followed by the Big Leeds Book Grab, where approximately 10,000 books were distributed to schools across Leeds. The City Council has committed to BookTrust’s Letterbox Club which has seen 350 of our looked after children receiving a series of 6 parcels full to the brim of books and resources to encourage a love of reading. Similarly the city has engaged with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to ensure some of our youngest and most vulnerable children have the opportunity to access books and have the joy that comes with owning your very own special books.
The Year of Reading has now seen dozens of authors and illustrators visiting various parts of the city to deliver workshops and talks in a number of settings and to demonstrate that, for some, a love of reading and writing can result in a profession! In April 2020, an author event, in conjunction with Chicken House Publishing, will be held at Elland Road where 1000 school children will have the chance to listen to and engage with authors, telling their story of how they found their way into the business and also to tell some of the stories they have written, in person.
Working with BookTrust, Leeds City Council has also run Roadshows for hundreds of non-educationalists from social workers to health visitors. The Roadshows have offered the chance for participants to learn about the significance of improved reading skills into our children and young people’s outcomes in life. The sessions were focussed around how to support parents to engage with their children in story time and how to overcome some of their own potential barriers in promoting their children’s love of reading.
Learning settings across the city have run hundreds of events and initiatives from book swaps to readathons and from fancy dress story corners to hiding and finding books in the Leeds Book Hunt.
Earlier this month the Library Service launched its brand new story buses, Nelly and Sam. The buses will travel across the entire city and will focus on taking books and resources into communities who may not have access to a library. Specially trained staff will be on board to help parents and children engage with stories.
All in all, so far it’s been a fantastic 5 months of reading where children’s imaginations have been sparked across the wonderful communities of Leeds. With 7 months to go the city is going to ramp things up even further as we embark on our journey to becoming a city of reading!