What's new

Friday, 7 October, 2022

ASCEL has been working together with Libraries Connected and The Local Government Association to highlight the role of libraries in supporting speech, language and communication  (SLC) strategies in local authorities. The chart highlights the ways in which library rhyme times support the elements of the recognised speech, language and communication pyramid. We encourage library services to use the chart to engage with their early years teams and ensure they are included in speech, language and communication pathways and strategies. 

How Libraries support SLC




Friday, 5 August, 2022

In the spring of 2022, the Local Government Association commissioned consultant peers to review library services in eight councils, specifically with regard to how they worked to enhance the local early years offer and, in particular, support for speech, language and communication development. The work was supported by The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) and Libraries Connected.

Executive summary

Each council had access to peer consultants for between five and eight days. In this time, strategic meetings, user and non-user and partner focus groups were set up, as well as background reading to identify strengths and recommendations for how libraries could become more closely connected with early years services, health and partner agencies working towards the development and delivery of family hubs.

The work was supported by The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) and Libraries Connected.

It was identified that there is much work that already takes place within council library services to support children and families in the earliest years, as well as partnership working across council and health partners. It was identified that there are existing strengths in how libraries already work to support the following areas:

  • pre-literacy skills including speech, language and communication development
  • mental health support for adults and children
  • reducing social isolation and creating networks / friendships
  • access to information, skills development and learning for adults      
  • delivering area-wide messages and support from the council, health and social care partners 
  • engaging with ‘under-served’ communities, families and individuals    
  • libraries used as a community resource.

Examples are provided within the report about the current successful work taking place in the councils that were involved in the mini reviews. Each council provided a case study which appears in appendix 1. Additional case studies from different areas are included in appendix 2.

In addition to the successful current work, the peer consultants identified, for each council, areas that could be developed further. Across the eight councils, there were recurring themes that were then noted as recommendations for closer connections between library services, early years and family hubs. These included:

  • involving libraries in planning for the development for family hubs  
  • clarifying the library offer
  • communicating the offer to families        
  • aligning strategies with key partners.
  • responding to families’ needs
  • demonstrating impact       
  • recognising libraries as part of the local speech and language pathway  
  • considering library staff as part of the wider children’s workforce within the council.

The mini reviews and their associated reports were very much appreciated by the councils that took part in the process. Participants identified how the process helped shine a light on the successes of libraries and explore closer work with councils, health and other partners working towards the family hub agenda. Many opportunities arose during the mini reviews to start conversations with partners that had not taken place before.

In addition, network meetings were set up for those councils involved in the programme. These were found to be extremely beneficial for all taking part. They provided an opportunity to share good practice and to discuss and problem solve difficulties faced by individual or groups of councils.

The full report can be accessed on the LGA website


Tuesday, 3 August, 2021

New public library experience to support disadvantaged families start their reading journey to be piloted by BookTrust

ASCEL have joined with leading library partners to support the development of BookTrust Storytime, a new pilot national library experience aimed at supporting disadvantaged families with children in their early years, engage with their local public library and develop an ongoing reading habit.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, it is also hoped that the BookTrust Storytime pilot will align with libraries’ aspirations to reconnect with their local communities after a year of closures and kick-start visits as part of the ongoing recovery. As well as supporting disadvantaged children and families, the pilot has also been designed to break down any limiting preconceptions – such as libraries being solely a place for reading books quietly – as well as showcasing the broader opportunities available with clear signage and a welcoming, friendly environment. 


BookTrust Storytime has been developed by the children’s reading charity in collaboration with libraries, local authorities and families and will launch in Autumn 2021. Funded by Arts Council England, the pilot has also benefited from the expertise and knowledge of leading library sector partners including The Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL), Libraries Connected, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Youth Libraries Group (YLG), to ensure the design and content reflects their experiences and meets the needs of librarians and library services.  


Insight from the co-design process showed that families are more likely to return to the library if they have a positive, fun first experience and can see the enjoyment and benefit experienced by their child. The BookTrust Storytime experience will incorporate the existing BookTrust Storytime Prize, which celebrates the best early years children’s books. This year’s shortlist will be integrated into the experience and used to encourage families to make repeat visits to the library to enjoy the different books. A raft of resources for librarians will be tested, alongside activities for families that bring the magic of reading to life,and inspire families to make sharing stories and visiting their local library a regular and long-lasting part of family life.


The pilot itself will adopt a three-tiered approach, with different levels of library engagement, and resources and activities being tested across the different libraries taking part. During the pilot, BookTrust aims to learn more about disadvantaged family engagement in library services and will use this to contribute to the evidence base around the development of a reading habit.


Chris Myhill, Chair of ASCEL  “ASCEL are delighted to share the professional expertise of our national network of senior librarians with Booktrust, to support the development of this new strategy. The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the disadvantage faced by some families and we welcome initiatives which are designed to break down barriers to engagement and help libraries reach out to those most in need. The power of reading is proven to benefit children throughout their lives and ASCEL is committed to bringing the joy of reading to all children, from pre-birth to early adulthood through our public libraries and school library services.


Annabel Gittins, Vice Chair, ASCEL and Library Development Manager, Shropshire ‘With books and reading at their heart, libraries offer connections and support for every age and every stage through a myriad of projects that allow families to be creative, to feel included, and above all experience kindness. BookTrust Storytime resources will enable libraries to play a key role in local COVID-19 recovery not only by supporting local authority priorities around the development of early speech, language and communication skills in pre-school children, but also enticing more families to recognise libraries as their space to explore, with opportunities available for all age groups.’


Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust  ‘At BookTrust we believe all children should reap the life changing benefits of reading, and our bold new strategy is focused on finding innovative ways to ensure children from disadvantaged families are not left behind. Working with the local authorities and library services that share these ambitions, our BookTrust Storytime experience will remind families about the treasure trove of support available from their local library and kickstart visits as we emerge from the pandemic. We’re grateful for the support of our library sector partners whose insight and expertise has enabled us to strengthen the design of the pilot and develop a new model of support that will enable us to all learn about how families can be best supported to engage with their local public library and make sharing stories a regular part of family life.’

Full Press release

Booktrust StoryTime

Thursday, 15 April, 2021

How libraries can support children's wellbeing: A resource pack developed by Libraries Connected, ASCEL and The Reading Agency to review how services are responding to the current needs of children, to inspire ideas for further action, to pro-actively build local partnerships with health, leisure, education to offer joined-up support to communities and as a source of advocacy materials to stakeholders and decision makers.

The pack was inspired by the discussion at the ‘Children, Wellbeing and Libraries’ webinar - a collaboration between The Reading Agency, ASCEL and Libraries Connected delivered as part of the Universal Health and Wellbeing Offer and the Children’s Promise.


Friday, 27 November, 2020

Press release:

Keeping Children Safe Online

A new toolkit of resources for library staff to help parents and carers to keep their children safe online launches today. Libraries Connected and ASCEL are delighted to work with NSPCC to create this new resource.

The online world has many benefits for children, helping children to learn virtually, entertaining children and helping families and friends to stay connected. However, it also brings significant challenges, especially around keeping children safe online.  These challenges have only increased during the pandemic.  

Funded by Libraries Connected, the toolkit covers topics such as inappropriate content, grooming and online relationships, spotting the signs & settings and filters. These topics have all been highlighted by library staff as areas of concern for the families they work with.

Isobel Hunter, CEO of Libraries Connected: 

‘I am delighted that Libraries Connected has been able to fund this toolkit through the Information and Digital offer. The partnership with ASCEL and the NSPCC has provided an expert-led, library focused toolkit which will support both families and library staff to understand current safeguarding needs and most importantly, how to access quality advice.’

Chris Myhill, Chair of ASCEL: 

‘This resource brings together the expertise of NSPCC and the knowledge and experience of ASCEL members to offer support to parents and carers at a critical time. We are confident library staff will find the toolkit invaluable in their work.’ 


Keeping Children Safe Online

Tuesday, 17 November, 2020

The Universal Health and Wellbeing Library Offer enables libraries to promote healthy living to people of all ages and provide self-management support.

At a recent children’s health and wellbeing webinar, participants, including many ASCEL members suggested titles that would support families during the current pandemic.  ASCEL is delighted to present those titles in a booklet which we hope will “help children to stay safe, calm, connected and hopeful” during these challenging times.  

Book selection

Friday, 30 October, 2020

A BRAVE NEW WORLD:   libraries helping children and young people shape their future


Tuesday 3rd – Friday 6th November 2020   


ASCEL goes online this year, but with the same inspairing range of speakers, including:

Day 1

A message from Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital & Culture 

A Brave New World for Libraries Panel: Sheila Bennett DCMS, (Chair) Isobel Hunter Libraries Connected, Carol Stump President Libraries Connected, Annika Eadie-Catling Head William Davis Primary School, Matthew Burton, Head Thornhill Academy.  

Reading, Relationships and Well-Being: Links with Social Exclusion, Prof. Robin Banerjee, Head of School of Psychology, University of Sussex

Author Kate Milner talks about her powerful book It’s A No Money Day


Day 2

Reading, Health & Social Prescribing: Jo Ward, Change Maker NHSE North West Social Prescribing Network Lead

A Look Inside the Reading Brain - Nicola Morgan, Author and Trainer

World Book Day, Cassie Chadderton, CEO


Day 3 

Education in this Brave New World: Geoff Barton General Secretary Association of School and College Leaders

Literacies, Libraries, Life: Professor Sonia Blandford CEO Achievement for All

Fair Education Alliance: Sam Butters Co CEO


Day 4

The Black Curriculum: Ilhan Awed The Black Curriculum

Being Brilliant, Being Happy & Building Resilience, Andy Cope Author, Trainer & Doctor of Happiness

NSPCC, Sophie Gold 

Brave New World for Reading panel: Alyx Price Associate Publisher Macmillan Children’s Books, Stephen Pryse Chair of BA Children’s Group, Katrina Gutierrez, Lantana Publishing and Annie Everall Director Authors Aloud UK


Conference closed by Alex Wheatle: Reading is Magic




Tuesday, 28 April, 2020

ASCEL is pleased to have been accepted as a member of  The Fair Education Alliance, a coalition of over 150 organisations. Together they drive lasting change at a local and national level, and monitor the gap between the most disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers, and use a collective voice and resources to end educational inequality.

See more about the Alliance 

Tuesday, 17 September, 2019

ASCEL Chair Stella Thebridge and Gillian Harris, SLS Manager in Tower Hamlets, presented a paper on the work SLS-UK has been developing on a framework for evaluation called “Theory of Change”.Read the full post on our blog.

Wednesday, 19 June, 2019

ASCEL, Libraries Connected and The Reading Agency Launch Principles for Working with Young People


In 2013 The Reading Agency received a five year Anniversary Gift from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation which provided the opportunity to create and develop Reading Hack, a programme for young people aged 13-24 years in public libraries and schools.  

In the first two years the Reading Agency worked with young people, library and youth organisations to develop the programme from concept to its delivery from April 2015.  The programme aimed to engage young people in reading by making it relevant to their passions and motivations and supporting their personal and skills development. Examples of how young people have taken part in the programme include managing author events, setting up book clubs, planning activities and events to support reader development initiatives in libraries such as the Summer Reading Challenge and planning and delivering small scale library festivals.

53 library authorities participated in the programme in year one with this rising to 170 library authorities in the third year.  27,000 young people have taken part as volunteers, cultural programmers and peer advocates from 1,790 libraries across the UK.

In 2015 OPM Group, an experienced independent evaluator was commissioned by The Reading Agency to evaluate the Reading Hack programme and the final report was published in May 2018.  The evaluators found that the success of the programme has demonstrated the demand for a co-produced, locally owned volunteering offer that young people can build and adapt for themselves.

The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) wished to identify a set of principles for working with young people that would underpin ASCEL’s Children’s Promise and shape the way in which libraries work with young people.

Funding from Paul Hamlyn has enabled the identification of a set of principles to underpin library work with young people which will form part of the legacy of Reading Hack.

Researchers Marianne Bamkin, Birmingham City University and Sarah McNicol, Manchester Metropolitan University were commissioned to research and develop a set of principles and they published the report Developing Principles for Working with Young People in Libraries Sarah McNicol said, “It’s been exciting to work on a project that brings together so many years’ work in engaging young people in libraries.  We hope that the report and principles, which are based on the views of young people themselves as well as practitioners from the library sector and beyond, are helpful for library staff working with young people in a variety of contexts.”

Marianne said, “I had a strong personal motivation in developing principles because I have worked with young people in school and public libraries.  It was incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun to work together with young people who encouraged me to share their passions and allowed me to feed their appetite for books and stories.  I hope the principles will help and encourage library staff to engage closely with young people and have fun, like I did, while helping to shape their future.”

ASCEL Chair, Stella Thebridge said about the report, “ASCEL members were delighted to receive this useful report with practical principles that can be applied to our work in public libraries with young people.

It will strengthen both the relationship between library staff and those participating in activities and our offer to those young people who volunteer to support activities for others, like the annual Summer Reading Challenge.

This builds on the excellent work of the Reading Hack programme facilitated by The Reading Agency, who are key partners with ASCEL.  The principles formulated by the researchers in this piece of work are validated because they stem entirely from the views of young people themselves.  We look forward to applying them in our libraries across the UK.”

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency said, "We are grateful to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for allowing us to use the funding for Reading Hack to commission ASCEL to develop these principles. Reading Hack showed how important it was to empower young people to use their skills and creativity and identify ways of involving their peers in reading. I am delighted that the learnings from Reading Hack participants and Marianne Bamkin and Sarah McNicol’s work has ensured that we now have a sustainable legacy from the programme which can help shape the work we all do with young people in the future."

The President of Libraries Connected, Mark Freeman stated, “Young people are vital to the present and future success of library services. Research shows that young people are amongst the most active users of library services and we want more young people to join them. These new principles will give libraries guidance to reach out to young people and collaborate with them to design services that are relevant, inspiring and meaningful to young people now and into the future.”

Supporting Resources

A power point presentation for ASCEL members to discuss at regional and strategic meetings  

A power point presentation for ASCEL members to introduce the principles to library staff  

A template for planning, monitoring and evaluating work with young people using the principles

** NEW** ASCEL has produced some resources to help members to implement the Principles in their libraries (July 2019)

The Youth Employment Skills Framework mapped against the TRA & ASCEL principles for working with young people and young people volunteering in libraries.

Youth Employment Skills Framework