Supporting isolated adults via the Six Book Challenge in Sheffield

Dr Briony Birdi, Lecturer in Librarianship, shares with us her new project which is supported by the Engaged Curriculum Funding Stream.

Starting in October 2014, this new project supported by the Engaged Curriculum fund gives Information School students on the MA Librarianship and MSc Digital Library Management programmes the opportunity to work as volunteers for SAVTE (the Sheffield Association for the Voluntary Teaching of English, providing valuable support to some of Sheffield’s most excluded and isolated English language learners via our local public library networks and the national Six Book Challenge. SAVTE ‘recruits and trains volunteers to teach English to the most excluded and isolated people in Sheffield’, and relies in large part on volunteer input, and the Six Book (fiction reading) Challenge aims to ‘improve the chances in life for people who find reading difficult by building their reading confidence and motivation’.

The timing of the project fits well with the Masters programmes, as students are signing up early in the academic year, and will complete the project towards the end of Semester 2. In the first semester, they will undertake a DBS check, and attend an information session and cultural awareness training workshop delivered and hosted by the iSchool, and during the second semester they will join an existing conversation/ESOL class within Sheffield. Their role will be to provide support for at least 3 sessions, visiting the local public library with the group, helping them to join the library and understand what its services are, then helping them to choose books for the 6-book challenge.

In terms of potential benefits to the participating students, the project will be a valuable addition to their CV, via a volunteering role with an English teaching organisation, and the development of skills in cultural awareness and civic engagement. Participants will be asked to write a reflective piece for the online professional development journal they keep as part of a core management module, to reflect on their participation in the programme and skills developed, and on their perceived impact on the learners. Students taking an elective Public Libraries module will also have the option of completing a piece of coursework relating to their experience and the wider role of public libraries in adult literacy education.

We anticipate that the project will enhance students’ academic learning, and personal and professional development – but above all we hope that it will be an enjoyable and mutually beneficial way of engaging with, and contributing to, their local community while studying in Sheffield.



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