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Reading Friends

"It's a much needed service"

Written by Aura Libraries, Flintshire

Aura Libraries in Flintshire told us their top tips for setting up their children’s Reading Friends group.

Why did you start a group for children?

Several libraries in Flintshire had wanted to set up a reading group for children before the pandemic. We had Reading Friends groups for adults and thought this might be a good model to use for children and young people as it’s more informal and social.

How did you get started?

As we started rethinking how we would run groups during the pandemic, we offered our existing Reading Friends groups over Zoom, and started rhyme times and class visits for children online. We had a library Zoom account to manage the activities. We wondered whether we could adapt the learning from this to offer an online group for children. We had parents from Reading Friends groups who thought their children would enjoy something similar.  Interest generally referred to children between 8-12 years old, so we decided to focus the group at this age.

How did you launch the group?

We launched a monthly group during the October half term and continued it at 4pm on the last Thursday of the month.  This time seemed to work as it was at the end of school which was mostly home-based at that time. We advertised on Facebook, Twitter, school newsletters, in our libraries, through leisure colleagues, and emailed all parents who had enquired. The best way to get people involved is talking about what is going on and encouraging people to join.  Posters and social media don’t always translate into people.

Who comes to the group?

We have a mixture of boys and girls, ranging in age from 5-12, with siblings often joining.  The regulars have increased in confidence, and they often recommend books to each other. We did find as restrictions eased, numbers coming to groups varied from month to month.

Top tips for working with a younger age group online

  • It’s important that staff running sessions have safeguarding training.
  • Check your Zoom security features are set up such as a password and waiting room. 
  • Make sure not to share Zoom log in details on posters or online. Give to parents by request. 
  • An email distribution list for each separate group is useful so you can send an email a few days before with the link.
  • Say on the email who will be running the session, so the parents know who to expect. 
  • Make sure that staff are not on their own – usually parents are nearby their children at home.
  • Staff delivering sessions should have a good knowledge of appropriate library stock and a good rapport with children.
  • Be enthusiastic – then the children will enjoy the session as much as you!

What does a session look like?

We usually have a theme to get the children talking such as stories about animals, funny stories, or favourite authors.  We often start by reading an excerpt or a poem to break the ice.  Once they get going, they tend to lead the direction of the conversation. They tell us what they would like to talk about next time.

Impact of the group

The group has made a difference to those involved:

“It’s a much-needed service for children who love books but is really rare to find. Enjoyment, happiness, something to look forward to for my two boys. They have a new regular hobby as a result.”

“We signed up due to my daughter’s love of reading [and] spare time during lockdown. Great zoom sessions. Daughter really enjoys them and looks forward to them. Thank you.”

Next steps for the group

We offered in-person groups once restrictions lifted, but the children wanted to stay on Zoom as they are spread across Flintshire, and it made their parents lives easier! We hope to relaunch and introduce a group for young people.

Please contact susannah.hill@aura.wales to find out more about Reading Friends in Flintshire.

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