Free book scheme for families experiencing hardship this summer

Girl lying on bed reading book

Hundreds of families who are experiencing hardship will be given free book bags this summer, thanks to the Reading Sparks programme.

Reading Sparks is a joint initiative between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and The Reading Agency. The programme, which will run until 2023, aims to use reading as a tool to engage families in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Working with 17 libraries across the UK, 1,000 book bags will be distributed in the coming months. Publishers have gifted children’s science titles by Serena Patel, Roger McGough and Vivian French among others.

As well as funding the book-gifting scheme, STFC has donated copies of ‘Unmasked: The Science of Superheroes’ a book that was co-authored by seven scientists and funded under an STFC Public Engagement grant.

Jenni Chambers, Head of Public Engagement and Skills at STFC, said:

We are delighted that, through our partnership with The Reading Agency, we have been able to help provide an interesting and diverse range of STEM materials to be distributed through libraries to families facing hardship.

At STFC, we know that science and technology is exciting and inspiring. These subjects can lead young people from any background towards rewarding opportunities in education and work. We hope young people, as well as their families and carers, will enjoy these materials and their visit to their vibrant and vital local libraries.

Libraries will donate the book bags through various partners including food banks and refugee support schemes.

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency said:

Our exciting new Reading Sparks programme is demonstrating the role that reading can play in sparking science engagement across the country, especially in areas with low science capital. This year children and families need support over the summer holidays more than ever. We are delighted to be working with libraries, publishers and STFC to be giving high quality STEM books and resources to families experiencing hardship.

This gift forms part of our commitment to supporting the COVID-19 recovery for those in greatest need and supporting learning and aspiration across all communities, but it wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of publishers, the support of library services across the country and of our funders Arts Council England and STFC.

The Reading Sparks programme has also received support from the British Science Association and NUSTEM, and funding from Arts Council England.

Sue Williamson, Director, Libraries at Arts Council England said:

Arts Council England is proud to support The Reading Agency and the Reading Sparks programme which is helping young people who have been severely affected by the pandemic, reaching into some of the most deprived areas across the UK.

Library services are the heart of the community and are fundamental in supporting people through the recovery from COVID-19. We’re delighted that library services will be working with The Reading Agency, gifting the packs via a variety of partners, including food banks, Early Help and Troubled Families teams, refugee support schemes and through Holiday Activities.

For a full list of participating libraries and book titles, visit the Reading Agency website.

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