The first person I saw as I dawdled into the Children's Library yesterday was David. He greeted me like a long lost pal.
We only see each other for seven weeks a year,
for the duration of the Summer Reading Challenge but, despite the great difference in our age - David being decidedly young and I having reached a Great Age, we have grown quite fond of each other over the last four years.
How had he enjoyed this year's Record Breakers theme? I asked him, as we helped ourselves to orange squash and a Celebrations chocolate. Or two. It had been pretty good, he conceded, in fact a whole lot of fun, as per usual. Especially bearing in mind
the fact that I had talked him into it.
That is so true. David is the only person who has been volunteering on the annual Summer Reading Challenge longer than I have. This was his fifth consecutive year on
the Challenge and my fourth. Last year he said he was going to hang up his boots, figuratively speaking, but I knew, in my heart of hearts, that he would regret it if he bowed out. I can be very persuasive when I set my mind to it. This year, however, David's
mind is made up. 2015 will be his Very Last Year.
About twenty of us were gathered in the library for a Celebration Event organised by the Children's Librarian, the unfailingly cheerful Frances, and her cohorts
Laura and Becca, to thank us for volunteering. Hence the orange squash and tin of Celebrations chocolates. There were biscuits, too, but I was very good and withstood the temptation. I could almost hear my dear Mum's voice in my ear, warning me: "You'll spoil
I looked around to see who else was there. Some of the youngsters I didn't recognise as they had volunteered at other local libraries but there, waving at me from the other side of the room,
was Poppy in her uniform, obviously having come straight from school. Emily came to sit next to David and me, and there was Tashi in the row in front. No sign of Imogen, whispered David. I craned my neck but, indeed, there was no sign of Imogen.
Frances kicked off proceedings with some facts and figures. David and Emily both smirked at me: they know how much I love the statistics. Why else would I while away any quiet times on the Record Breakers desk adding
up the number of "finishers" and arriving at complicated projections of the final total based on the books read by each child and the weeks remaining?
I could have just waited for Frances to inform
us that a staggering 13,000 children across the whole county of West Sussex had taken part in the Challenge, almost 1000 of these registering at the Worthing Library where I was based. Over 50% completed the Challenge by reading six books over the course of
the summer holidays. Four hundred young people - and yours truly - volunteered to help listen to the littl'uns tell us about the books they had read in return for amazing rewards. Like smelly stickers.
this our certificates were presented. One lassie had totted up an amazing 72 hours. I was all admiration. Poppy had volunteered for 49 hours. I caught David looking at his certificate: could he really give all this up? I asked. He ignored me. Politely.
Next, a surprise. Frances invited us all to help ourselves to Record Breakers' medals and glow in the dark wristbands. "Wow!" I told David, "Now that must be worth a Second Chance." Or even a Sixth Chance, in
David's case. We had given the wristbands out to every youngster who signed up for the Challenge. "I understand," I told every child I signed up, "that they glow in the dark...." Except that they don't. I tried mine out in the darkness of the front bedroom
when I arrived home after the Celebration Event. I do hate finding out that I have unintentionally peddled a Great Big Lie.
Frances let us into a secret. The theme of next year's Summer Reading
Challenge. We have all been sworn to secrecy so my lips are sealed but I could see that David was almost as excited as over-excited me. It's going to be amazing!
"So, who thinks they will be
volunteering for next year's Summer Reading Challenge?" Frances asked us. I am pretty sure that my hand shot up before anyone else. I looked at David. David looked at me.
Then, very, very slowly - and, yes,
a little tentatively - David raised his hand In the air...