Level Up launched last year in Wester Hailes Library as a way to tackle low levels of reading among teenagers using the library. The library adopted an innovative approach to try to boost the reading habits among this group which tied reading into the more familiar territory of computer games.
We caught up with the level uppers at their AGM (yep, they take this seriously) as they plan the year ahead. A group of around 14 teenagers sit enthusiastically pitching ideas to Library Officer Tony Stewart for future activities and reward nights which include games tournaments, minecraft sessions to pizza nights and archery. The caveat being these must be earned through the accumulation of xp points they gain from reading.
Tony explains: “We brought these two worlds together and in order to keep it as a group we made it weekly and based it around interesting activities for them to do and at the same time encourage them to take out books. Gaining XP points as they take out books then creates a sense of achievement through reading.”
“The XP awarded to a book is based simply on how long the book is. Each list includes 5 short books/graphic novels, some of which are dyslexic friendly, and 5 longer books. This is to give those who have issues with reading the option of an easier read. Reading the shorter books means reading more books to reach the level cap but this adds to the sense of achievement in completing the level, encouraging them to try a longer book in the next.”
Like any game Level Up starts on “LvL1″. This consists of a list of 10 books, each with its own amount of XP reward. Once the player reaches the 1000 XP cap they can then move onto “LvL2” which has its own list of books and so on. Along the way the readers are given stickers to add to their reading journal to document their journey.
Tony says this approach has made a real difference: “We have seen higher borrowing levels in all the kids who take part and greater self-confidence and more enthusiasm for the library in general.”
“They all seem to have a feeling of ownership for the group as well which is one of the things we aimed to achieve. This has bonded the group quite tightly together. They come to the weekly meetings now and take part in activities and now all leave with a few books tucked under their arms to get their xp points.
We have some who aren’t confident readers who are taking out books. They aren’t taking out tonnes or reading them all but even if they read a few I feel it makes a difference and we are making some progress.”
Everyone is also encouraged to share their new love of reading and discuss what they’ve been reading. This can take place during one of their weekly sessions or through a micro book review which they post to the Level Up twitter feed. During our visit everyone is busy writing a love letter to the library, an event promoted as part of Book Week Scotland.
Some of the boys taking part are happy to point out the benefits of the group:
Alex: I’ve been doing this for over a year. It’s great taking part in all the activities and games. I like building up my points and collecting the stickers and achievements for reading. It’s good to come along to a group where you are rewarded for learning.
Daniel: You get different points for different books so there’s always something you can find to suit you. I’m currently on 595 xp. I definitely take out more books now and where I never used to read much before and now sit at home and read for ages.
With the future year getting planned out so diligently it looks like Level Up has become a firm fixture in the regular events at Wester Hailes calendar and is likely to expand out to some of the other libraries in the city. If you are interested in taking part, ask in your local library for more details.
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