This spring Vivacity’s Book Bus takes to the streets of Peterborough for the very first time. Bright, bold and beautiful, it takes an innovative and fun approach towards broadening the appeal of reading among children. Step aboard and let the journey begin!
Local childhood literacy rates have seen marked improvements over recent years. This is no coincidence, with initiatives led by Vivacity, such as the Summer Reading Challenge and Once Upon a Festival helping more youngsters to discover the joy of reading.
Last year the Summer Reading Challenge kept 1,800 children reading over the summer holidays, while the storytelling festival drew no fewer than 3,000 visitors. Successful initiatives like these have contributed to literacy rates among primary school leavers having improved by a remarkable 10% in the past year alone.
Wheels in motion
Vivacity recognises the importance of getting children into books from an early age. Research proves the strong relationship between the frequency of book sharing and children’s literacy development and achievement at school. When it comes to a child’s cognitive development, reading for pleasure is more important than the level of their parents’ education, while children who read for up to half an hour a day have a difference in reading performance equivalent to a whole year’s schooling over those who never read for enjoyment.
So while recent gains in the city’s child literacy rates are to be welcomed, the team at Vivacity aren’t resting on their laurels and this spring are setting the wheels of their new Book Bus in motion. Fun, friendly and accessible, the Book Bus will feature a colourful wrap by local children’s author and illustrator Ellie Sandall. Inside there will be space for storytelling, plus plenty of books to inspire the imagination.
‘We want to reach as many of Peterborough’s primary schools as we can,’ says Rebecca Graham, Vivacity’s new Reading Development Officer. ‘The bus is all about promoting the enjoyment of reading to children. We want to make it as accessible as possible too, because a lot of schools don’t have the opportunity to visit the library as often as they would like. The Book Bus takes the service to them, but it’s not in place of the library – it’s in addition to it.’
Similar services in other cities have produced tangible results. Leicester’s BookBus, for example, has helped to create a stimulating environment for children to explore the magic of books, while demonstrating to parents and carers how essential reading is to academic progress.
Becky will be coordinating visits with Peterborough’s Book Bus, as well as driving the bus and running the (promising to be lively!) sessions. ‘Some children may never have set foot into a library, so the bus needs to make it as fun for them as possible. Sessions will include a story time to bring the magic of books to life and children will be able to choose a book to take away with them.’
The bus has been made to Vivacity’s specification by NEAT Vehicles – a company in Nottingham that designs bespoke vehicles for alternative uses. You certainly won’t be able to miss it when it takes to the streets in March. ‘We’re hoping it will have a really positive impact. If children see the bus pulling up they’ll sense there’s something exciting going on. Then inside it will continue to inspire, so the children will really want to be there.’
Into the community
During the school holidays the Book Bus will tour local communities. ‘We will link to as many places and people as we can – we want to get the bus out there,’ says Rebecca. Community events will include the option of outside space, with an extendable awning for extra cover. To the back of the bus drop-down tables will offer space for drawing and other activities.
‘We also want to get parents involved with the Book Bus, so we can promote both the enjoyment and importance of reading in childhood development and difference it can make to a child’s potential to learn.’ By creating a bright and lively space, the Book Bus should help Vivacity to further improve literacy rates, supporting the National Curriculum’s emphasis on reading for pleasure. Look out for it from March and get in touch if your school or community group is interested.
Local children’s author and illustrator Ellie Sandall runs Arts Stars, a children’s art school based in Deeping St. James (artstarsdeeping.com). She was approached by Vivacity to design the colourful wrap for the bus
I have worked with Vivacity quite a few times before, running events at the library and children’s centres based on the themes of my Everybunny series of children’s books. When they approached me to design the wrap for the Book Bus I was naturally delighted!
I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s been quite a learning curve. The brief was to come up with something that was going to captivate children. The bus will be engaging with children up to year six, so the design had to appeal to a fairly wide age group.
The idea from the start was to build on the background of my books, creating a new theme of Everybunny Read. This has been really helpful because it’s meant I can use some of the other illustrations I’d been developing with the books, changing them to suit the reading theme.
The design is made up of groups of bunnies sitting on stacks of books and reading. There are teenage bunnies, young bunnies and toddler bunnies to give a range of age groups – and encourage the children to hop on board!
I’ll be incredibly proud to see the Book Bus take to the streets with my design on it; I’m looking forward to it so much. Being involved with the library staff on this project has been a fantastic experience.
Vivacity’s Book Bus
Discover more about the Book Bus and how to book a visit at vivacity-peterborough.com/library-archives