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Reading Hack does #LoveToRead at Manchester Central Library

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By Emily Oldfield


Manchester Central Library was host to the national flagship event of ‘Reading Hack’- a free celebration of books and reading for young people in collaboration with BBC #LovetoRead – with a number of interactive activities across the library on Monday 24th October.

This Reading Hack running from 2pm till 6.30pm, marked the beginning of two weeks of literary celebrations leading up to the BBC #LovetoRead Weekend (5th-6th November), and invited the public to get involved in ‘hacking’ books; opening up literature in whole new ways using technology, creativity and even a talk from best-selling author of The Bone Season books Samantha Shannon.

Hacking a book unlocks even more fun! That appeared to be the message of a wide range of activities including ‘Scene Hack’ – where visitors were invited to create a stop-motion animation using Lego pieces and an iPad inspired by their favourite book.

The use of iPads to make reading more accessible and exciting for young people was a prominent feature of the day; with one of many stands showing how ‘augmented reality’ can transform the way we read. Through the iPad app Aurora, users could scan the device over some children’s work and be linked to multimedia material about how the child created it, as well as relevant website links. Work on display included not only reviews, but chapbooks made by young people, in connection with the Archives Section at The Central Library.

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There was clear emphasis on how reading can bring people and services together, with other activities including creating 3D shapes and possible illustrations with special 3Doodler pens, printing book covers and a ‘Hack in Six’ session from 5pm-6.30pm.  Taking part and giving activity feedback also doubled-up as an exclusive opportunity  to be entered into a prize draw to win tickets to meet YouTuber and vlogger Joe Sugg – emphasizing that reading has so much to give.

Ongoing activities throughout the day also served as an effective method of showing young people the volunteering opportunities available for 13-24 year olds in libraries; another key initiative behind the Reading Hack. Volunteers allow events like Reading Hack to continue – whether people want to help with public engagement or just would like to spend more time with the library. It isn’t just for younger children – a number of students, including members of Manchester Metropolitan University, have already signed up.

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Getting young people of all ages more involved in libraries was a central message in a speech delivered by Head of Libraries Neil MacInnes as he introduced Samantha Shannon to the stage. Speaking to growing audience in a specially-planned seating area in the central Library’s public event space, MacInnes emphasized that his position as head of libraries was kick-started by his own experience as a library volunteer. He also drew attention to the figures that over summer, 67 volunteers or ‘reading hackers’ were involved across Manchester’s libraries – amounting to over 670 hours of time given – and more needed,

If that wasn’t inspiration enough, then the following conversation with international best-selling author Samantha Shannon, running from 3.45pm to 4.45pm certainly was. Two members of the Youth Parliament became her interviewers in a lively hour which saw her discuss plans for her seven-book series The Bone Season, other projects, what it felt like to be published at only 21 years old, the excitement of having film credits with 20th Century Fox and being able to write 17,000 words in a coffee shop – amongst other things! There was also a Q&A with the audience during which Shannon urged readers and writers to “do what works for you.”

The afternoon was well received across the ages – with adults and children alike welcomed to get involved in the multimedia experience. According to Claire Styles of The Reading Agency, who attended The Reading Hack and was significantly involved:

“This event is a collaboration with the BBC who have recently launched the ‘Love to Read’ campaign which encourages people of all ages to read.

The aim of Reading Hack is to get young people excited about what they are reading and about sharing it. The project starts with young people’s passions and interests and  finds a hook that has reading at its heart.”

The Reading Hack at Manchester Central Library was the leading event; one of 9 regional events taking place to celebrate reading. To find out more and even volunteer in one of the Manchester libraries – with students welcome to work with other young people as well as enhance their own learning journey – you can visit the website

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Emily Oldfield

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