Case study

Youth volunteering in Dorset with the Summer Reading Challenge

The economic value of volunteering for youth volunteers.

Volunteer with a young reader. Photo credit: Dorset libraries
Volunteer with a young reader. Photo credit: Dorset libraries

Contribution to corporate priorities

Youth volunteering enables economic growth by helping young people to develop their skills and experiences and to become more confident and successful learners as they grow into adulthood. More people will then be able to secure the employment opportunities of their choice enabling economic growth.

Their volunteering also contributes to childhood literacy by encouraging other children to read.

Description of the work

Over 100 young volunteers aged 14 to 25 years were recruited to work alongside library staff and administer the Summer Reading Challenge. The role involved:

  • explaining the challenge to children and families
  • signing them up
  • handing out the materials
  • completing the appropriate paperwork

The volunteers also listened to the children talk about the books they had read, assisted in the choosing of new books and with the self service issuing process.

Many of our volunteers also helped at mini record breaking competitions in their libraries, craft and story sessions and displays. Some of the older and more confident volunteers led and organised sessions.

Outcomes achieved

100 young people completed volunteer training of which 90% completed 10 hours or more and 10 of the volunteers had volunteered the previous summer. The volunteers completed 1499.5 volunteering hours over the 9 weeks of the SRC period. 19 out of 25 libraries had volunteers this summer

16 young people have been put forward for the Dorset Award. This Award, which is open to all school pupils in year 7 and above, recognises significant achievement from contact with a youth project and aims to recognise:

  • young people’s self development
  • team working and problem solving skills
  • the positive contribution young people in Dorset make to their community
  • the amount young people have changed for the better

Many of the young people commented that they have gained in confidence and learnt new skills during the volunteering period.

Staff from Lytchett Matravers Library reported that parents said the young volunteers were incredibly helpful and they really took the time to talk to the children and engage with them. Having teenagers volunteering in the library was brilliant, and set really positive role models for the children

Quotes from the volunteers

“I also felt as if I was encouraging my own love for the written word in younger readers, which gave me great satisfaction” Anneka, 18

“Seeing them (the children) getting excited over a book I found them was really rewarding” Katy, 15

“I loved helping the kids read/read to them, it was really lovely to see their accomplishment and pride on their face when finishing off a model or a picture. I built more confidence with talking with children and now I feel more prepared in the future when doing volunteering” Dawn, 17

“I really enjoyed working with small children as I hope to go into a career in doing so and I enjoyed building my confidence as working as an individual in handing out materials. As a child, I have taken part in the Reading Challenge numerous times and now feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to help other young people expand their knowledge and vocabulary through reading” Katie, 15

“I feel as if I am more confident in talking to a range of people” Gemma, 15

Accomplishments and lessons learnt

Around a fifth of the young people expressed an interested in continuing to volunteer in the library after the summer and this has now been accommodated with a year round volunteering programme. Feedback from staff and volunteers has highlighted an area of development and this will be to create a list of activities for volunteers to engage in during quiet periods. The service has now signed up as a pilot for The Reading Agency’s year round reading scheme, Reading Hacks, and this will enable us to promote reading across the genres.

Making contact with schools has enabled staff to do assembly visits to promote SRC volunteering in 9 schools, which has also provided valuable contacts and led to participation in school and college volunteering fairs.

Future plans

Dorset library service plans to:

  • increase the range of year round volunteering roles and to continue to improve the volunteering experience
  • expand the volunteer led groups across Dorset (these groups enable the young people to get involved in all aspects of event planning and to create, design and run an activity of their choice)
  • create an ambassador role for returning SRC volunteers next year, so that they can help with the training and mentoring of new volunteers.

Additional resources

Article: Volunteering opportunities with Dorset libraries for young people

Contact for further information:

Published 16 December 2015