Young people from all over Somerset who had spent their summer volunteering in libraries celebrated their achievements recently at Wookey Hole Caves.
Following Somerset Libraries’ successful Summer Reading Challenge all 89 young people who had volunteered were invited to spend the day at Wookey Hole Caves with their families and attend a celebratory event in the afternoon.
The Summer Reading Challenge is a nationwide event that takes place in libraries up and down the country, which encourages children to complete the challenge of reading six library books during the school summer holidays while collecting stickers. All children who participated in the challenge received a certificate and those who completed the challenge also received a unique reading challenge medal.
This year, Somerset libraries had 7,937 children take part in the Record Breakers themed Summer Reading Challenge and they were looked after by volunteers as well as paid library staff. Library staff were delighted by this increase in participation especially as nationally many authorities saw a decrease in the number of children joining in.
The young volunteers helped out with the challenge by helping children to pick out books, engaging with them about the books they had read and enjoyed, handing out the rewards of stickers, posters and medals, reading stories to the children and organising craft activities.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Libraries, said: “I am delighted that we had so many young people come forward and offer up their time to participate in volunteering to encourage children to keep reading.”
“These young people have selflessly given something back to the children within their community and no doubt inspired and encouraged them to do well in the Summer Reading Challenge. With over 7,937 children visiting Somerset’s libraries to take part in the challenge it would have been a lot of work for our library staff to cope alone, so the volunteers were without a doubt an invaluable asset to them during the busy summer holiday period.”
One of the young volunteers said; “Volunteering in my local library was amazing! Thank you Taunton staff for looking after me. I will definitely do this next year.” One of the parents at the celebration event said: “My daughter has really enjoyed her summer of volunteering. Her confidence in talking to people has really improved too.”
Young volunteers contributed a total of 2,324 volunteer hours in Somerset’s libraries across the summer months. The reasons they gave for wanting to volunteer included ‘it looks good on my CV’ (77%), ‘I love books’ (69%), ‘to practise talking to people’ (55%), ‘to get experience of working with children’ (49%), ‘to develop my self-confidence (49%) and ‘for something to do’ (45%). The two most common words used to describe the experience of volunteering at the library were fun and enjoyable.