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Engaging young people in a Manga Reading Group

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Josie Watson from Essex Libraries tells us about how they are going about engaging young people with reading and libraries in Harlow:

Harlow Library has been successfully running reading groups for a number of years, but began to realise that we were not reaching our local teenagers, which is why we decided to start running a Manga Reading Group.

We started by gauging the interest of the teenagers, by using questionnaires which they could fill out and hand in to library staff. We decided to limit the ages of the members of the group to 17 years and under.

The first session was very informal, with a selection of different Manga titles available, and the group proceeded to discuss their favourite titles with each other. They also had a selection of art materials and paper, which they were able to design their own artwork with. The group made a list of all of the Manga titles which they would like to read, which was later given to a member of staff. This member of staff sat in with the group to help discuss the various titles and to try to source the titles that the group were interested in for the next session. It was then decided that the easiest day and time for all members to attend would be a Saturday afternoon. We now display the artwork which the group design on a display board here in the library.

The group attended the Essex Book Festival event titled 'Comic Creators', which involved professional comic book writers and artists coming along to the library. The whole group took part in the question and answer session and the practical activities which included storyboarding and artwork. One member of the group even brought her own artwork in and asked the professional artists how she could develop her work!

This group now meets up every 1-2 months to take part in book sharing and art activities. The group also have the exclusive use of two public use computers with which to search the internet for their favourite Manga sites.

We're always looking to encourage new members to join the group, which we do by sending out posters to local schools and community groups.

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