The Children’s Promise
Sarah Mears: ASCEL Chair and Libraries Services Manager: Essex Libraries

A promise to a child, should never be lightly made and so I am very glad that we have been able to produce a Children and Young People’s Promise for libraries. The Promise, developed by ASCEL (The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians) sits alongside SCL’s Universal Offers and the Six Steps Promise. It sets out in six statements the expectations that every child should have of their library service.

–Every child and young person visiting a public library is inspired by an exciting accessible environment which makes reading for pleasure irresistible.
–They have the opportunity to engage with imaginative digital opportunities
–They will find a range of inclusive and diverse fiction and non-fiction books and other information resources to support literacy and learning.
–They are able to take part in a wide range of cultural experiences
–They are actively involved in decisions about service developments and are offered opportunities to volunteer.
–They are supported to improve their health and wellbeing.

I see the Children’s Promise as having three key purposes. Firstly, it is rooted in current practice and so it can be used locally to support children’s library service strategy and partnership development. We have developed a self assessment tool to accompany the Promise, which provides an opportunity for local library services to assess their provision.

Secondly the Promise links to the Universal Offers, ensuring that the specific needs of children and young people are reflected. For example, in the past couple of years ASCEL has been working with The Reading Agency and the Universal Health Offer Group to develop Shelf Help: Reading Well for young people. We contributed to the development of Code Green as part of the Learning Offer. ASCEL is now conducting research in partnership with The Reading Agency which will clearly articulate the health and wellbeing benefits of libraries for children and young people. We are also very excited to be working on the development of the new Cultural Offer. We are exploring how the Arts Council’s Seven Quality Principles could be used to develop a quality framework for rhyme times and we are currently preparing a seminar for libraries and Bridge Organisations to better understand the contribution libraries can make to Cultural Education Partnerships.

Finally the Children’s Promise has acted as a springboard for the development of new projects and programmes and we’ve been very grateful for the support of Arts Council England and SCL to make them happen. One of the most exciting projects over the past couple of years has been the development of the partnership with Dimensions UK which has enabled us to produce an Autism Friendly Libraries film and to share resources and good practice from library services around the country; helping all of us improve the experience children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families have in libraries.

Embedded within the Children’s Promise is the “Children’s Library Journey”. This has been significant as it enables us to highlight areas of strength in the library offer to children such as rhyme times and the Summer Reading Challenge but also areas where, although there are pockets of excellent practice, there is no national programme. One such area is library support for parents-to-be. ASCEL is working with colleagues and partners to produce a new toolkit for library staff with strong messages around the importance of singing and talking to your bump.

In mid November we’ll be running our annual conference. The title “Reaching out: libraries-enablers of active communities” reflects one of the six vision statements of the Children’s Promise looking at participation and children’s engagement. The conference focuses on both public and schools library services and will also be celebrating ASCEL’s work supporting We are very proud of the achievements that the Children’s Promise has enabled over the past few years and are looking forward to continuing to work closely with SCL in the years ahead.