Booked Up was a national programme that ran for five years from 2007 – 2011.
Booked Up gave every 11-year-old in England the chance to choose a free book during their first term at secondary school. The aim of the programme was to support and encourage reading for pleasure and independent choice. Year 7 students chose their free book from a list of specially selected titles.
During its five years, Booked Up distributed over 3.25 million books to children across England.
Booked Up was run by Booktrust, funded by the Department for Education, and generously supported by children’s book publishers.
When I was a teen & youth services public librarian I was only peripherally involved with the Booked Up programme, setting up displays in my libraries at the time of the book selections and promoting it in conjunction with teachers and school librarians who brought Year 7 classes in to the library.
Since becoming a secondary school librarian I was able to see what joy receiving a free book brought to students.
Now it is gone, in its place Booktrust is offering The School Library Pack – a brand new programme for young people. This will give school libraries fiction and non-fiction titles, and resources to help staff create a reading culture that reaches all pupils, encouraging pupils to discuss what they are reading and join in activities such as reading groups. This offer replaces the Booked Up programme offered in previous years.
From the team that brought you Booked Up, Bookbuzz offers the same great variety of books for your school. Every student will have the chance to choose their own book, from a list of 17 titles suitable for 11-year-olds and selected by a panel of experts. This exciting new programme from Booktrust is purchasable by schools at a greatly subsidised cost. This is thanks to Booktrust’s not for profit status as a charity and the generous support that we receive from a wide range of children’s publishers.
This fantastic new programme includes:
Participating schools will also receive a kit to support reading for pleasure across the school. This indispensible resource will provide you with all you need to embed reading for pleasure at your school, including:
With the support of children’s book publishers we are able to offer Bookbuzz at a greatly subsidised cost of only £2.50 per child. A school with 50 participating pupils would cost only £125 and would provide resources worth over £450.
In the short space of time since the closure was announced I have seen a flurry of e-mails on mailing lists about how this will impact schools that have considerably more than 50 Year 7s. My school is a rather small private one and it has over 60 year 7 students, schools that have more will be harder hit. Budgets are being squeezed everywhere and while it is possible that the money could be found it will more than likely be skimmed off the library budget as many librarians acted as Booked Up coordinators.
What I fear may happen is that many schools will be unable to afford it and will withdraw from the scheme as they will not be able to afford the overall cost or the time fundraising will take and as many librarians are already involved in fund-raising initiatives
Offering the programme to a limited number of students is not feasible or fair and there will be complaints from students who have been excluded from the scheme.
Booked Up was a brilliant initiative, much like the Bookstart programme, it puts books directly into the hands of young people that may not have owned a book since they received their Bookstart pack as a baby. Speaking from experience there is nothing like a freebie to excite people young and old as well as disproving the TINSTAAFL (There Is No such Thing As A Free Lunch – or in this case book) concept.
The loss of Booked Up is a shame and I do not think that the offered replacement services will measure up to what was achieved in the past five years. The support materials will be of great use to librarians just starting out with whole school reading campaigns and those that may need a refresher.
For everyone though, from Year 6 students to teachers and librarians who were involved in running it the closure of Booked Up is a minor tragedy, one of the many that exist in the current time of cutting expenditure and shuttering non-essential services.
As librarians and readers we will endure and find other ways of nurturing a love of books and reading. We will still be able to give readers books but we will just have to remind tehm to return them when they have finished reading them!