This week on the SLIC blog Chris Newton, Head of School Communities at the Scottish Book Trust, talks about The First Minister’s Reading Challenge and how libraries can get involved.


Being librarians, I don’t have to convince you why reading for pleasure is important or explain the fundamental role reading can play in supporting wellbeing, particularly, through this extremely difficult year.

We appreciate that libraries are still facing huge uncertainty, whether it’s working with reduced opening hours, reduced footfall or new procedures to ensure that books are sterilised and quarantined before being returned to the shelves. However, we have seen wonderful examples of libraries reaching out to schools, families and children to ensure that their level of service never dips. And that is exactly the sort of work that we want to shine a spotlight on and celebrate the First Minister’s Reading Challenge (FMRC) not just during National Libraries Week but every week.

The First Minister’s Reading Challenge is designed to be a flexible approach for schools, libraries and community groups to build and sustain vibrant reading cultures and most of our effort has, to date, gone on building those reading cultures. Libraries are already beacons of vibrant reading cultures. It is their very essence. Librarians are passionate and knowledgeable about books. They help young people discover fascinating new worlds, they support the community and bring authors and illustrators in to inspire and engage their audiences. More than that libraries provide people of all ages and backgrounds with a safe place to read, learn and develop their skills.

Join in the Challenge

So, this year we are not asking you to build a reading culture, we are asking you to shine the spotlight on your achievements and celebrate your reading culture by signing up to The Challenge. You can let us know about some of the great things you have been doing to inspire young people over the course of the year and we can highlight your successes on our blog or Twitter. You can also achieve recognition for your efforts by entering our Awards in April 2021 to let us know what you’ve been doing and the impact that you’ve had.

To support you further, you can apply for a grant of up to £500 to create a project of your choice that includes an author event or workshop for your library, and reading materials for children taking part. The event/workshop can be delivered in person or digitally, depending on Covid restrictions. Applications are open to public libraries already registered for FMRC now and will close on Thursday 26 November 2020. For further information and to apply online, go to Library Fund.

You will find a wide range of activities and programmes to get involved with on the Scottish Book Trust website. Programmes include, the Bookbug Picture Book Prize, Scottish Teenage Book Prize and Read Write Count. You can also watch and share with children and families a host of world-class author events from our Authors Live On-Demand player featuring the likes of Elizabeth Laird and Lauren St John discussing the environment, Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell talking about her latest series of books, Michael Rosen celebrating poetry and David Almond sharing his writing tips.

We have also launched our search for the Learning Professional of the Year Award, so if you have a colleague who consistently goes above and beyond to bring the joy of reading to young people, then we’d love to hear from you by Friday 13 November 2020.