What is Reading Sparks?
With funding from Arts Council England and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), The
Reading Agency is delivering Reading Sparks between 2021-2023, a pilot project which harnesses the
proven power of reading to engage families with STEM activities and build science confidence among
families in communities living with deprivation in England.
The Reading Sparks pilot project will test and pilot new ways of using creative reading to increase STEM
engagement. 11 pilot library service partners in England will distribute reading and STEM book and activity
bags to families who have been particularly disadvantaged by the pandemic.
At the moment we have four themed science and reading bags in circulation, these themes are; simple
machines, invisible nature, animals and the moon.
Library services are also working with local youth organisations, schools and social care partners to develop
positive, confidence-building activities for young people aged 14-18 based in reading and STEM. The young
people will work with library staff and youth workers to design new reading and science activities engaging
families with children aged 4-11 in the library space and via the library service’s digital offer.
Our overall aim is to build confidence and engagement with STEM among children, young people and
families and to demonstrate the role that creative reading and arts activities can play in sparking
engagement with a wide range of subjects and topics.
The Reading Sparks pilot is taking place in 11 different locations across England:
You can read more on our website.
Why do we need your help?
As part of the project we are arranging visits from STEM communicators for these pilot locations. We hope
for visits to be made during the spring period of 2022, although this is flexible depending on your own
availability and the libraries schedule.
We are looking for STEM communicators who are experienced in engaging families to visit one of more of
the locations above and deliver interactive and ‘hands-on’ style family workshops.
workshops could have a focus on any aspect of STEM, as long as it is lively and engaging for
the audience and invites them to explore the subject further. Library services may take the
opportunity to promote and loan science and reading bags during your visit, but your workshop
does not need to be linked to the bags’ themes.
STEM communicators who have lived experience of STEM professions would be brilliant, especially
from under-represented demographics in the STEM sector.
We are also interested in STEM communicators who have links with one or more of the pilot
locations, although this is not essential. The reason for this is we want our families to be able to see
themselves in STEM, not just admire the achievements of others.
Experience or an understanding of the barriers to STEM engagement would be advantageous. We
are keen not to reinforce traditional stereotypes of STEM, such as it being for geniuses, boffins or
for ‘mad scientists’.
You are invited to submit a proposal for delivering workshops in one or more of the locations. This could
include pre-prepared workshops or workshops tailored for a particular location or locations. Selected
proposals will be made available to Reading Sparks partners to book directly.
We are working within the 11 pilot locations initially, but there may be opportunities to work with other
locations as the programme expands.
If selected then we strongly encourage you to speak with Reading Sparks partners at different locations in
advance of delivering your workshop in order to optimise the outcomes and to make links with in-library
groups and activity.
The project is independently evaluated and we will be able to share overall impact data over the
course of the project, we may also be able to provide anonymous comments received from young
people, children and families engaging in author/ illustrator events when available.
If you are interested in submitting a proposal then please complete this short survey giving details of what
your workshop entails. You are welcome to contact Liz Jeavans in advance of submitting a proposal if you
wish to find out more about the programme or have any questions; email@example.com.
Deadline for proposals is 1 February 2022. All proposals will be looked at by a team consisting of The
Reading Agency staff, STEM communication professionals and our Reading Sparks library partners.
Shortlisted STEM communicators will be contacted by end of February when we will also make your workshop available for library partners to book directly with yourself.