Today (13 January 2022) public libraries are joining Wales’ Winter of Wellbeing initiative by launching a campaign to promote the proven difference reading can make to young people’s lives and the power of public libraries to support them. To celebrate the launch, children and young people are being invited to nominate and share a book that’s made a positive difference to how they feel. A national longlist will be announced at the end of this month, as a host of events and activities launch online and in libraries. Nominations are open to all books, in English or Welsh, including fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry, Manga, graphic novels and more.
As the pandemic continues to dominate our daily lives, the Welsh Government-funded Winter of Wellbeing is a cross-Wales bid to help children and young people recover from the pandemic and head into spring feeling better, more connected to others and ready for a new start.
“Young people have had such a tough time during the pandemic, and their library is an ideal place to start if they’re new to or want to get back into the community after such a hard couple of years,” says Nicola Pitman, chair of the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru and library lead on this campaign.
“Everyone has a welcome in their library whatever their age, background, challenge or ability, and what’s inside (including the thousands of audio, print and online reads) belongs to everyone, can open up new worlds and deliver magical experiences,” adds Nicola. “They come to see their library as a safe, friendly place to explore hobbies, interests and ambitions and connect with others. We are hoping to be able to showcase that in these winter months and are really excited about the difference it can make.”
Four times winner of the Tir na n’Og Wales Children’s Book Awards and Welsh Libraries current author of the month Manon Steffan Ros, echoes Nicola’s views. “Libraries are community hubs and there is nothing like them to centralise the social experience of being in a community, or to democratise knowledge. I wrote quite a few books in my local library and I came to see not only how librarians were brilliant at welcoming young people, finding and recommending books for them, but also building social connections with everyone who came in, and introducing them to others through groups and events, too,” says Manon.
“Young people don’t always think of libraries as their space, but it really is and this campaign will showcase all that libraries can offer them,” she adds. “I always go back to certain books that make me feel good, especially in the Winter. Books can introduce you to others just like you. Make you realise you’re not alone, even if it feels that way. I am so looking forward to see what children and young people recommend.”
“It is fantastic public libraries are providing activities as part of our Winter of Wellbeing to provide support for children and young people as they recover from the pandemic,” says Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Social Services . “Reading can provide opportunities for our young people to develop their imagination whilst also supporting their emotional wellbeing. I encourage everyone to go to their local library and I look forward to seeing what books are nominated.”
Public libraries have teamed up with The Reading Agency on this campaign and the seasonal celebration of reading will continue through to the end of March with a programme of activities and events delivered online and in libraries.
At The Reading Agency, the aspiration is to get everyone to pick up a book as CEO Karen Napier, explains, “Our vision is for a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life, and working with and supporting children and young people is key.
“This campaign encapsulates everything we stand for and the aim is to promote the benefits of reading for wellbeing to the children and young people of Wales. We’re looking forward to working together to connect people with their libraries which are such brilliant community hubs, and we really look forward to hearing their views.”