Read Manchester

Post by Margaret Duff & Cheryl Pridgeon. Read Manchester Project Managers

The Read Manchester campaign was set up in 2016 by Manchester City Council, in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, with the aim of encouraging reading for pleasure across the city, for all ages and communities. It originated from colleagues in Education who felt that reading should be an activity that involved parents, carers and everyone in the city, and should also have the aim of improving the quality of life and mental wellbeing of people in the city.
The Read Manchester brand is an umbrella for existing reading activity in the city, and also generates new activity and partnerships. The brand also enables partners to badge their own activity. Libraries, Work and Skills, Education and Early Years all work closely together on the campaigns, and we are bringing Health into the partnership, working with health visitors to deliver the Bookstart message and develop a book ‘prescribing’ scheme.

Workshop at Central Library 3 - photo by David Oates (1)


Initiatives have included gifting books on the tram, creating a ‘Take 10’ campaign and supporting mental health by working with high schools to roll out the Shelf Help collection and train high school librarians.

Close partnerships have been forged with the Manchester Adult Education Service, Sure Start Children’s Centres, heads of literacy, colleges, universities and festivals, including the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and the Manchester Literature Festival. Read Manchester was the Learning Programme Partner on last year’s hugely successful Bee in the City public art trail. We hope to continue the growth of the campaign and develop further partnerships in 2019.


Stay, Play and Learn

Families playing parachute games in a library

Blog post by Jane Mason, Operations Manager (Stock & Reader Services) Oxfordshire BookStart Coordinator, Oxfordshire Libraries.

Blackbird Leys is buzzing with activity on a Thursday morning, Didcot on a Friday morning, soon to be followed by Littlemore and Woodstock with other libraries approaching the planning stage.

What is going on?

Stay, Play and Learn sessions are a new initiative for libraries and are encouraging families into the library to play, talk, read and sing with their children.

There are mums, grandmothers, dads, aunts and childminders, all with the same goal, which is to get children socialising, talking, and communicating. This means getting children school ready.

Because we are in a library most of the activities are based around communication, language and literacy. The families are encouraged to interact with their children.

Oxford family
Families at Stay, Play & Learn session

The volunteers who will be leading the sessions will model how to talk and play with children using the resources available. There is plenty of scope to develop concepts using books and toys.

It is lovely seeing children tipping all the toys over the floor and then choosing what to play with. (The parents always help clear up at the end of the session).

At Blackbird Leys the children particularly enjoy the large waffle blocks, the dolls house and small animals and the big wooden bus.

At Didcot they enjoy the foam building bricks, role play kitchen and the train track and cars.

Oxford baby

The sessions end with a rhymetime. Rhymes and songs are a fun way of helping children acquire language skills.

Recycled Racing Machines’ – Family Digital Making Sessions

Kate Robinson, Juliet Kendall and Mark Sutcliffe. Oxfordshire.

Despite the rain and cold persisting throughout the spring school holidays, our libraries continued to offer warmth, light and fun for children and families. We took our “Recycled Racing Machines” workshop out to Berinsfield, Littlemore and Oxfordshire County Library and it was a ‘Sell Out’!

Each of the sessions became a hive of activity; from crafts, modelling, knitting and drawing, to designing, engineering, electric circuits and playing with ozobots.

OxfordRacingMachines families

As well as a good deal of problem-solving, creativity, team-work and ingenuity, families also had the opportunity to learn about batteries, wheels, knitting and crochet.

The emphasis was on having fun with their family in the library, but if people learnt something along the way – then even better!

OxfordRacingMachines group

Many thanks to all our partners, who we couldn’t have run the event without:

  • Val Knight and Viv Kadobinskj, from ‘Children, Education and Families’
  • Jane Barton and friends, from the Oxford Knitting and Crochet Guild
  • Orinoco, The Oxford Scrapstore – for their wonderful hoard of recycled textiles, scraps and plastics.

We hope to run more of these sessions in the future, in other locations, so do watch this space…..

OxfordRacingMachines Knitting

Sharing Our Journey to becoming Autism Friendly

The global network of libraries was highlighted recently when a Librarian from Korea contacted ASCEL to find out more about their innovative work developing Autism Friendly Libraries. 

Ham from the South Korean Library Service was working with a charitable organisation to establish Autism Friendly Libraries in South Korea when he picked up on the ground-breaking work led by ASCEL and Dimensions. 

Keen to understand the network in the UK and discover examples of good practice Ham visited Coventry Library Service to find out more about the approach that we had taken when we made the journey to becoming autism friendly 2 years ago. 

Here in Coventry we were thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome Ham and his colleagues to our city, and to share our story. It was great to have the chance to talk about our successes but also to touch on the issues we had encountered along the way. 

Talking via an interpreter did take a little while to get used to, but we were soon able to share our experiences and ideas. We really connected about the need to involve people with lived experience, and Ham and colleagues were particularly interested to learn about the network of support from ASCEL. 

From our point of view, it was fascinating to hear about the project that our visitors were embarking on. In South Korea the team were looking at establishing Libraries which would only provide services for Autism. For this reason, the integrated approach taken in the UK was an interesting concept to Ham’s team, and the visit provided different options for them to consider. 

Soon it was time to say goodbye to our visitors but everyone is excited to keep in touch as services continue to develop.

We can’t wait to hear more from Ham and his team very soon. 

Sorrelle Clements. Service Development Manager, Libraries and Information Services
Coventry City Council

Surrey Libraries maker events & STEM

Blog entry by Gary Green (Digital Services Lead, Surrey Libraries)

Over the past few years Surrey Libraries have been working towards a permanent makerspace at Guildford Library. This includes focusing on a number of groups in the community, one of which is aimed at developing the skills of children in relation to creative technology, digital and STEM activities.

As part of this we have either run the events ourselves, making use of the interests and skills of library staff, hosted events provided by external organisations and individuals within the local community, and also run events as part of national initiatives.
We’ve seen that there has been a shift in the way that people learn over the past few years, with hands-on and making approaches being particularly effective for subjects around the STEM agenda and technology.Events we’ve either run or hosted for children, include:

  • Robotics sessions using Mbot, Ozobots, and Meccano Meccanoids.
  • Electronics sessions using Little Bits, Raspberry Pi, and Makey Makey controllers
  • Coding activities including Code Clubs, IAmTheCODE clubs, Micro:bits sessions.
  • Minecraft, which have also included elements of coding.
  • Interactive fiction writing session for looked after children.
  • Game Making

We originally decided to focus on these areas after running a maker day in January 2016 with much of the technology mentioned above. The day was a success, with over 120 adults and children attending. Following on from this we were given funding to buy a mobile Makercart, which included most of the kit we have mentioned already, as well as a 3D printer and digital paper cutter. We recently also ran a crowd-funding campaign with support from MBA students at the University of Surrey to raise money for a film studio. Children will be able to use this studio to film and share their own maker projects.
Maker and STEM activities were a new concept for Surrey Libraries, but by signing up to the Maker Corps program (a U.S. based initiative) we were able to provide a focus for our activities. We also had guidance and support from educator and maker Carlos Izsak.
As well as coding courses and stand alone maker sessions we’ve also used some of our maker kit for events with a broader focus, including a local arts festival, Always the Sun; The Big Draw; Fun Palaces; and a thank you event for our Summer Reading Challenge volunteers.

Benefits of running these activities include:

  • Supporting the development of children’s skills in relation to the STEM agenda in a creative way, with a focus on coding and technology.
  • Developing our learning and educational offer in relation to technology within libraries, and demonstrate our value in this area.
  • Engaging with the local community to highlight our desire to support learning in this way, and encourage the local community to support us in this endeavour in either a formal or informal partnership role. We have had such a positive response to this from the local community.

The project in Guildford continues to develop with the support of a steering group made up of library service representatives, local interest groups, the University of Surrey and both county and borough councils. Again this highlights both the support and partnerships we are building up around this concept and this has been key to developing the offer.
Though much of the maker focus has been on activities in Guildford Library, we have started to expand the activities to many of our other libraries. Guildford Library acts as a space to pilot ideas, which we can then share with other library staff around the county and give them the skills to run their own activities in other locations. This ensures that our support of the STEM agenda happens in other locations and more children have the chance to participate.


The Reading Den

Teenager reading

Blog entry by Steve Palmer, Children’s, Young People and Learning Librarian, Solihull

Solihull Libraries, Arts and Information Service is working in partnership with Solar, the children and young people’s service provided by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT), Barnardo’s and Autism West Midlands, to build a collection of specialist books, stories and resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of children in Solihull.

The collection is based in Chelmsley Wood Library on open access, with the resources available for reservation across the Solihull Libraries network. To support this, a new membership category has been created for Foster Carers so that they are not subject to reservation or overdue charges.

There are approximately 140 titles in the collection, which includes books and resources that offer understanding, advice and support appropriate for all children and families. However, careful thought has gone into choosing resources that are sensitive and relevant to the particular experiences and needs of our looked after and adopted children, their carers and parents.

The collection is made up of four sections:

• Books for parents and care givers on child development, support and advice, school experience and surviving traumatic experience

• Books for children and young people and those who care for them on mental health, relationships, feelings, and specific difficulties

• Talking books to promote relaxation and sleep

• DVDs to encourage conversations and reflections

A complete annotated booklist of the collection is available on the Reading Den webpage at

The Reading Den collection is not exhaustive and it is hoped that it will grow over time; recommendations for additional titles are welcomed and can be sent to

For any further information, please contact Steve Palmer, Children’s, Young People and Learning Librarian via

Welcome to the ASCEL Blog

Networking with colleagues at the 2017 ASCEL conference highlighted to me the fantastic work ASCEL members are doing in their public libraries and Schools’ Library Services back home and I thought a blog would help us to showcase this work.

Our most recent national ASCEL committee meeting was in Barnsley. This was my first visit to Barnsley and I really liked the place. My train journey from Stafford took me across the rolling Yorkshire Moors and that is one of the delights of our committee meetings – we get to visit some fabulous places, inspiring libraries and wonderful publishing houses.

Another delight of ASCEL national committee meetings is the opportunity to focus on developing our services for children and young people despite challenging times. Conference 2018 is starting to take shape looking at how we make our services relevant to children and young people. We have identified some excellent key speakers and workshops and Annie is now in the process of contacting everyone to check availability. We have started work on mapping the children’s offer across the Universal Offers. This work started at conference with developing a culture offer for children but we recognise that what we offer our children and young people is so much more than culture. A small group of national committee members have been working on a Family Friendly Pledge to encourage families to visit libraries. Our partnership with Beanstalk continues to develop and we are working on an MOU that will help to establish local offers, promote public libraries and schools’ library services and support literacy in schools.

Everyone works hard at these meetings. There is scintillating discussion and debate and always lots of actions at the end. I think it is fair to say that we go home tired but with a sense of achievement.

Sue Ball

ASCEL National Committee Chair