Crystal Palace library celebrates record reading figures

Staff at the Upper Norwood Joint Library have celebrated helping 140 Crystal Palace children complete a six-book reading challenge over the summer.

kids books children'sThis year’s Mythical Maze-themed Summer Reading Challenge was the latest, annual event, organised nationally, by the Reading Agency.

Children aged between four and 12 years old who signed up were challenged to read six books and were encouraged, with stickers and other rewards along the way.

The Upper Norwood library team is particularly proud that it encouraged 235 children to participate, which is a 25 per cent increase on the number who registered last year.

This sense of accomplishment was heightened by the fact that 140 children received certificates for reading all six books. This was a 28 per cent increase on the success it enjoyed the previous year.

Another tribute to the library is revealed in the gender break down of 91 boys starting the challenge and 55 completing it. Nationally, it is proving a much harder challenge to persuade young boys to read.

Inspired by the labyrinth theme, a particularly innovative approach taken by the library was to hold reading events in the maze in Crystal Palace Park.

The Upper Norwood Library Trust (UNLT) is working closely with Lambeth and Croydon councils to take over the governance of the library. It was formed after the 100-year joint agreement between the councils was dismembered by Croydon’s previous Conservative regime, which also slashed funding.

Robert Gibson, the co-chair of the UNLT, said: “This is a brilliant achievement by the children’s librarian Fiona Byers, other library staff and the seven wonderful volunteers who gave up so much of their time to make this year’s Reading Challenge such a success.

“What particularly encourages me is that the marketing of this scheme attracted 41 new child members for the library. Of course many children will have read far more than six books, and others may have not claimed their certificates because of being on holiday, so the impact is far greater. It is particularly impressive when you compare it against a depressing backdrop of falling literacy rates.

“Local authorities face more cuts to their budgets from central government. But it’s increasingly being demonstrated that short-term cuts to library budgets can, unwittingly, actually increase social and financial costs for councils.

“The most progressive local authorities are actually investing in innovative libraries as a means to deliver a greater range of favourable social and economic outcomes.”

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