Posts by Ian Anstice

Three new Read Regional events in Stockport

Posted Monday 29 January 2018 by Ian Anstice in Latest Libraries News

Stockport have announced two authors and poets who will be appearing there as part of Read Regional 2018. Read Regional are bringing twelve northern writers and their wonderful new books to venues across the North of England. Schools, festivals and libraries in our towns and cities, from east to west coast, are participating
in the campaign, making this a truly region-wide festival of reading.:

Guy Mankwoski(1) Meet Guy Mankwoski, author of An Honest Deceit,  as part of the Read Regional 2018 events. Guy Mankowski’s first novel, The Intimates, was published by Legend Press in 2011. His second, Letters from Yelena, was researched in the world of Russian ballet, and was adapted for the stage for a one-off performance at Dance City, Newcastle. An excerpt from it was used in GCSE training material by Osiris.
His third novel was set in Manchester’s post-punk scene and written as part of a creative writing PhD at Northumbria University. An Honest Deceit was published in 2016.

(2) Read Regional Poetry workshop and readings with Antony Dunn. Join us for an Antony DunnExploring Poetry session, where you can read and discuss contemporary poetry in a friendly environment. Exploring Poetry is for anyone who wants to find out more about contemporary poetry, how to read it and which poets to look out for.The Exploring Poetry leaders, Anna Woodford and Linda France, will work with you to share ideas about what works and how poetry makes you feel. You should come away with an idea of which contemporary poets you might enjoy and ideas of what to read next. The sessions are relaxed and informal, and no knowledge of poetry is required. After the workshop Antony Dunn will be sharing and discussing the poems from his new book Take this one to bed.

Antony Dunn was born in London in 1973, and now lives in Leeds. He won the Newdigate Prize in 1995 and received an Eric Gregory Award in 2000. In 2015, he was the editor of Ex Libris, a volume of selected poems by David Hughes. He has published three previous collections of poems, Pilots and Navigators, Flying Fish and Bugs. Take this One to Bed explores the passions and tensions of how we live together.

(3) Meet Preston born author Jenn Ashworth who will be talking about her latest book Fall.

Jenn AshworthFell is a novel about miracles – wanted and otherwise – magic, healing and the danger of hope. It’s also about a family who run a lodging house on the edge of Morecambe Bay in a little town called Grange-over-Sands. One day, a mysterious and charismatic lodger arrives, claiming that he can heal Netty – the landlady of the house – of her terminal cancer. The novel is narrated by a pair of regretful ghosts, woken into being by their daughter’s return to the now abandoned lodging house. So it’s partly a ghost story, partly an exploration of loss and illness and magic, and
it’s partly about what happens when you do and don’t get exactly what you wished for.

Jenn Ashworth was born in Preston. She studied English at Cambridge and has since then gained an MA from Manchester University, trained as a librarian and run a prison library in Lancashire. Her first novel, A Kind of Intimacy, was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. Her third novel, The Friday Gospels, was
published to resounding critical acclaim. She currently lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster.

The best books of 2017?

Posted Monday 18 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Opinion

So, here we are heading to the end of 2017 and it’s been another bumper year for new books, new authors and all things literary. Here at Casa Time To Read (Tiempo para leer?) we encourage you to read what you like, just so long as you read, but with so much choice out there, what should you go for? Well. here's a few suggestions, or rather a short list of suggestion lists.

Books of the year 2017To help you with your Christmas wish list, the Reading Agency have published a list of their top reads for 2017,  compiled by their staff and some library colleagues. The list includes poetry, non-fiction and short stories too, so there's something for everyone here. If that's not enough, though, have a look at Esquire, whose list includes many more.

If you fancy a bit of time travel, then you can go back to the Telegraph's list of what it thought would be the best books of 2017, published a year ago. And Amazon has a different list, again, here.

If you want to get more specific, you can always have a look as well at the GoodReads 2017 book lists, which include all sorts of categories (like "most anticipated" and YA novels) and will be sure to have something that you'll love.

But all of those are national or even international. How about something closer to home? Well, the good folk at Halton Libraries (Runcorn and Widnes) have put their favourite reads (not necessarily from 2017, just the ones they enjoyed this year) on to their catalogue here. And, yes, we at Time To Read love Tim Peake too.

So do you agree with any of these choices? Something you love missing?

We would always love to know which book you are going to snuggle up with over Christmas, so tweet us at @timetoreadNW and share the book-ish love.

Also, don’t forget that if your favourite library has closed over Christmas and you have possibly run out of things to read, Don’t panic, help is at and. Head over to your library’s ebooks webpage, which are free to loan with your library card. See your own individual library authority website or social media for details.

Wishing all our followers and readers a very happy Christmas and here’s to an even more book-ish 2018

Making the sandwich: putting on successful author events

Posted Wednesday 13 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Events, Training

Public libraries are superb places to host author events. There’s thousands of them, for a start, with a wide geographical spread. They often have large amounts of floor space when compared to book shops. But, in this age of increasing competition for people’s time and limited staff resources, how does a public library ensure that writer visits can be as successful as possible? That’s the question Time To Read posed. The answers that came back all pointed to the conclusion that simply offering an author, except if they’re really famous, is not enough.

Making the SandwichIn fact, what came through loud and clear is that the library needs to think of how to package the event. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by analogy. Think of it like trying to sell a sandwich, where the author is the main filling and the library is the bread. Well, that may not be enough to get people to buy the sandwich, especially as there are many other fantastic lunch options out there. So it may be better to add in some refreshments as extra fillings  and  -  to improve the packaging, as it were -  theme the event. Oh, and make sure you don’t serve it at the wrong time of day. Perhaps add some music in there as background too. And, voila, you get a really nice sandwich . Or author event.

This guide is intended to share the best practice out there and to share the hard-won experience of experts so you don’t have to learn on the fly. But it’s not intended as prescriptive. To take the food analogy still further, choose what you want from the buffet of ideas and perhaps come back later to try something more adventurous. Oh, and let us know your ideas too so we can improve for next time.

Download the "Making the sandwich" guide here.

Fead and Read: libraries providing food and activities to children in holidays

Posted Monday 4 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Training

Examples of Feed and Read schemes in the North West

Child foodThis is where children use the library over a school holiday period, with food being provided. This is often, but not always, in partnership with another agency.


Lunches for children provided by Urban Outreach over the summer .  This programme was extended to several branches this year. The lunches will be available every day over the 6 week summer holiday, with libraries opened up if it’s a day they are closed usually. Schools are emailed closest to the libraries to let them know and libraries promote the sessions in outreach sessions for other activities.  The sessions are open to all. if any child is hungry over the summer and would like a lunch they just need to visit the library.  Libraries are also going to supply an activity of some kind at each session, such as storytimes.


Warrington are running this project over the Summer with Active Warrington. They have local funding and or widening their successful Fit and Fed programme. The main parts of the project are:

  • Children recruited will be from a ward with deprivation issues, with children from 5 up joining a programme of sports and reading activities. They will also be provided with meals and instructed about healthy eating

  • Young leaders will volunteer to help at the sessions and will gain a food hygiene qualification as part of the project. We are also hoping to recruit Reading Hackers especially to help with Summer Reading Challenge.

  • It takes place 4 days a week. Libraries will be involved for 2 days.

  • See below for the sort of activities we will be doing on a Tuesday. On Friday the children will be taken on an away day to Stockton Heath which will include a visit to the library in the morning with the chance to join in with Summer Reading Challenge and to the park in the afternoon. Many children will not previously have often travelled that far outside their immediate location.

  • Active Warrington will provide staff, recruit participants, cover transport and book venues.

Possible activities – could all be tied in to healthy eating or good mental well-being. We have tended to work with older children with this as you will see by some of the examples, but can adapt it for younger ones.

  • Create a digital book review – usually we do a Vine (now obsolete I believe!) or animation

  • Rugby Reading Champions sessions – based around favourite reads of Wolves players. Book and rugby quiz, match the player to the right book. Possible stadium tour, training session attendance, match day attendance, visit by role model player

  • Join up to Summer Reading Challenge and give them associated rewards.

  • Listen to Hip Hop Shakespeare and create their own poem (this is not boring I promise. We listen to Akala and talk about how Shakespeare and Hip Hop are both poetry.  Would need to adapt to for a younger audience so would probably listen to someone like Craig Bradley

  • Create emoji stories or guess the emoji book. They can either create a story using only emojis or create a review of a story using only emojis and see if the others can guess the book.

  • Create a comic – we have a template we can use,  they can create it by putting photos together or they can draw it

  • Create a photo story – a six word story illustrated by 6 photos. Can make a healthy eating story –  eg we had 1 which was no booze, no fags, be healthy with a photo for each word. 

  • Twitter or text story – we can give the beginning of a twitter or text story that they can finish.

Review of our Friday group sessions here


In Manchester, Read and Feed was piloted/trialled throughout the school holidays in July-August 2017, with a full high-profile implementation in summer 2018. This approach will enable us to ensure high-quality delivery.   

As Fallowfield is a community library, volunteers will be available to support the scheme.  When the scheme is run in 2018 in other libraries, we will engage volunteers to support the scheme. We have worked with GM FareShare for the first time.  They supplied food for free (with a nominal administration charge) and additional sandwiches were purchased from a local supplier. We held reading / craft activities, to increase engagement with the Summer Reading Challenge.  The scheme is not designed to reach very high numbers, but target those that need it, and increase the amount of people starting and completing the Summer Reading Challenge. 

On the very first day of the Read and Feed scheme, one Mum arrived with 3 children and explained to Elaine and myself that her 11 year son was autistic and would be unable to join in any activities like painting and gluing and would find it difficult to interact with others. At first he wouldn’t make eye contact with us but with encouragement he joined in with all the activities and over time he would chat to us about books and games he liked. We told him how we could reserve books from other libraries which he did and managed to complete the reading challenge. He especially enjoyed the iPad sessions where we did Stop motion with Lego. There were some challenging moments when he got upset but we managed to gently talk him through them. Towards the end of the scheme his Mum said how thrilled she was with how he had joined in and built up a relationship with us and hoped it would help him when he started High School.

St Helens

St Helens has taken part in the very first Food in Schools Holidays project this year. We were given a budget from Public Health to provide food at our events. We decided to use our existing events around the Summer Reading Challenge and earmark some of them for food. We had:

Children had to book onto these sessions and at the end they received a snack bag containing a bottle of water, cereal bar, chocolate, fruit and a packet of Pom Bear crisps. We took details of allergies at the time of booking but there was only two instances of allergies being recorded out of hundreds of places booked.

The scheme was a great success and very well received and Public Health are now preparing a report advising that the strategy should be adopted permanently and all holiday periods should have funding allocated to provide food at events


The idea came in 2016 from local councillor John Blundell. Here’s an article he wrote on where the inspiration came from:

This year, the scheme was rolled out to 6 libraries across 4 townships: Belfield and Balderstone (Rochdale Township), Smallbridge (Pennine Township), Darnhill (Heywood Township) and Junction and Langley (Middleton Township).  The libraries chosen are in areas with a high number of children eligible for free school meals.  Funding has been provided by the Townships.

The aims of the project this year are broadly similar – primarily to provide a healthy lunch for children who might otherwise go without – but also to encourage take up of the Summer Reading Challenge – all children who attend automatically become library members and are enrolled in the challenge - and engage them in reading/craft and related activities.  This year, we are extending the appeal of the scheme by working with Link4Life (Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust, provider of arts, sport and heritage services in the Rochdale borough) who had independently secured funding through charity Street Games to provide their own Fit and Fed programme, led by Link4Life sports coaches. 

By pooling resources, and sourcing food cheaply from Fare Share  , we are able to offer 30 places for “Fit, Feed and Read” at each venue.  Leaflets (see attached) are going out to targeted schools in the participating libraries’ catchment areas and parents are asked to complete the registration form and return it to their chosen library.  Extending the scheme this year has presented quite a lot of challenges, not least having to open up part-time libraries out of hours and buy in extra staff (from ROSA – Rochdale and Oldham Supply Agency) but we’ll see how it goes.  Each session (11am – 2.30pm) will involve at least an hour of reading/related activities/craft and at least an hour of sports/games/fitness as well as the lunch aspect.

See also these examples from the USA:

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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