Learn how ten library authorities in the East got 11 - 18 year olds reading for pleasure and responding creatively to books.
ImagiNation is a reading and arts project designed to get 11 - 18 year olds reading for pleasure and responding creatively to books. It consists of a reading challenge recorded through ImagiNation logs, artist-led workshops in libraries and a blog for young people to share creative responses to books.
The project brings together ten library authorities in the East: Essex, Southend, Thurrock, Luton, Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Peterborough, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. It was initially planned as a one-year project but due to an underspend, and permission granted from Arts Council England, ASCEL has been able to extend the reading challenge into 2015 and 2016.
A small project team with representatives from Essex, Hertfordshire and Norfolk was responsible for the initial planning and reported back into ASCEL. This enabled us to plan swiftly and develop our funding application. Once funding was confirmed we arranged a full meeting, recruited a Project Manager and set up a training day for library staff.
Involving young people
Young people were involved from the outset. Thurrock recruited volunteers from their Summer Reading Challenge to work with an artist to develop the ImagiNation logo and challenge materials.
Each library authority recruited young planners to help select artists and plan workshops for their libraries. Some did this through existing groups such as 'Young Ambassadors' or 'Reading Activists'. Others teamed up with secondary schools.
Norfolk took on the task of working with young people to develop the ImagiNation blog. They chose the domain name and designed colour schemes and content that reflected the graphics and branding designed by young people in Thurrock.
Working with artists
Once the young planners were in place, we advertised for artists through Arts Jobs. They were asked to respond to a loose brief of 'working with libraries and young people to inspire responses to books'. The young planners then selected the artists they wanted to work with and developed activities with them.
Among the different artists, we observed three distinct approaches to working with young people. Artists came with:
- a fixed idea of what they were going to do and just tested the idea with the young people
- a small selection of ideas and invited young people to choose
- an open mind, keen to respond to young people's ideas
The third option was by far the most successful. If we were to repeat this process we would specify this way of working.
The resulting workshops ranged from filmmaking, animation and radio to sculpture, manga, creative writing, sonic art and performance.