As of today, I am officially a Reading Activist. I even have the tee-shirt to prove it.
I wasn’t totally sure about
the tee-shirt, to be honest. It looked lovely on all my fellow volunteers but then they are all, on average, at least fifty years younger than me. I took my tee-shirt home and tried it on for Mr B’s opinion – that’s something I value about
Mr B, he will always, but always, give me his honest opinion on whatever I happen to be wearing. Even if it may wound me. He excuses this somewhat brutal frankness by arguing that it is better to know the truth when it comes to attire. Would I really
prefer it, he asks, if he allowed me to go out looking a wally? Well, put like that...
Mr B thinks my tee-shirt looks OK, scoring low on the wally stakes, so
I guess I will be wearing it in future. At least all the littluns on the Summer Reading Challenge will know, as soon as they catch sight of me in my tee-shirt, that I am part of the Mythical Maze.
Yes, in case you are wondering, the Summer Reading Challenge has been rolled out nationwide from Saturday. Children aged between 4 and 11 are being encouraged to sign up for the challenge of reading six books between the time
they register and the middle of September. Along the way, to mark their progress, Reading Activists like me will be rewarding them with scratch ‘n’ sniff cards and other exciting gifts, culminating in a certificate and a medal on their final visit.
This year’s theme is The Mythical Maze – a bit of a change from last year’s Creepy House and the Storylab theme of the year before.
I could have been at Worthing Library for the launch event at the weekend but, as regular readers will know, I was elsewhere celebrating Sussex and trying to work out what level floor I was on. Phoebe, my fellow volunteer on the Mythical Maze Desk this
afternoon, tells me Saturday was loads of fun with story-telling, model-making and much use of colouring pencils. Over 100 children signed up for the challange then and there. Still, I am here today, sitting at the desk next to a Friend From the Past.
Yes! The green paper-mache dragon which we used to attract attention to our desk two years ago has been resurrected from wherever he (she? It?) has spent the last two years and, presumably after a good dusting down, is back in position. I much prefer
him (her? it?) to the creepy spiders which festooned the Creepy House desk last year. I tell Phoebe about them and she tends to agree with me, despite never having actually experienced the unnerving sensation of having a large woollen spider creeping
down the back of her neck while all the time trying to explain to an earnest eight year old what the challenge is all about.
Like the Creepy House last year and
the Storylab the year before, the Mythical Maze is peopled by a number of strange characters. While they are all beautifully drawn, I think someone ran out of ideas when it came to naming them. OK, so the Loch Ness monster is called Nessi and there
is a spider called Anansi (after the West African god who possesses all knowledge of stories) but the Leprechaun, the Unicorn and the Yeti are called, respectively (can you guess?) Leprechaun, Unicorn and Yeti. The best that can be said about this
is that at least I will remember their names. During last year’s Creepy House challenge, I frequently found my mistakes corrected by clued-up six and seven year olds.
Along with my tee-shirt, I have been given a little booklet in which I am to record the hours I work over the course of the summer holidays. The book is called “Summer Volunteer Essentials” and the welcome page tells me to “use this
guide to do a bunch of useful stuff.” This “useful stuff” includes recording great skills for my future, helping me to get into college, university or a job. If I complete three skills I will be able to get on-line badges in Excellence,
a certificate of achievement and a personalised reference letter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it – this may all have come fifty years too late for me but it’s going to give a great boost to the careers of Phoebe and our fellow
Incidentally the definition of “activist” is a person who campaigns for some kind of social change. When you participate in a march protesting
the closing of a neighbourhood library, you're an activist. Someone who's actively involved in a protest or a political or social cause can be called an activist. The job of a Reading Activist, I presume, is to get youngsters all fired up with a love of books
and reading. And that can, indeed, change their lives for the better.
With or without the tee-shirt, and with the help of the Leprechaun, the Yeti and Anansi himself
– I’m up for that!