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Blog post

Meet Rachel | Read Manchester Literacy Champion

03 Jun 2024

Rachel WBD photo Read Manchester

To mark National Volunteers’ Week from 3 - 9 June, Rachel Collier shares her experience in helping her local community access books and develop a love for reading as a Read Manchester Literacy Champion.

I have been a Literacy Champion volunteer with Read Manchester for around 18 months now, and it is by far the most rewarding of all my voluntary work. I became a Literacy Champion to encourage the community - children in particular - to read books and get excited about stories. As a child, reading was my escapism and although I came from a working-class background, I had access to many books so would take myself away to fictional places. I would borrow books from school and libraries whenever I had the chance.

Establishing Little Free Libraries

Last year, in my local community of Newall Green, I set up a Little Free Library at a local doctor’s surgery (The Maples) and another small library at a local barber’s shop, sourcing local unwanted storage units to upcycle into libraries. I believe everyone should have access to free books, regardless of background or status. Books are the source of all knowledge and can really help you gain new experiences and navigate life. Little Free Libraries can be a great way of providing easy access to books in places that families are already visiting.

Each little library must be fit for purpose, secure and relevant to the location. Once installed, I get one set of new books and I also source second-hand books to be borrowed. I theme my large library at The Maples throughout the year for events such as World Book Day, Halloween and Christmas, where I decorate the library and print free resources for children. I also have a mobile library: a big trolley of books I take into the local park, which is always popular. Little Free Libraries do take a while to become established but once the community realise they are here to stay, books start to trickle back, and they become sustainable.

LFL The Maples

Expanding into hospitals

My initial plan was always to grow my libraries to further service my local community and support Wythenshawe Hospital. After many months of emails, research (and patience!), this year I have also set up a further two libraries in Children’s A&E at Wythenshawe Hospital and a trolley library in Adult’s A&E at Wythenshawe Hospital, where staff provide ‘a brew, books and biscuits’ to patients. These two libraries are very special to me, and it gives me a great sense of achievement to offer patients access to free books while waiting for treatment. There are certain challenges when setting up libraries in hospitals in relation to infection control and risk, but with the help of play specialists, staff and matrons, we have been able to find the right solution for each department.

A real highlight for me was the very first day I set up the Little Free Library in Children’s A&E. I arranged all the books and walked away to sort my boxes. The second my back was turned, two young children came running over to the bookshelf with beaming smiles, eager to see what was there. They both took a handful of books and promptly sat reading with their parents. That was a very humbling moment for me and it made all the hard work getting these libraries into the hospital worth it!

Supporting other local community events

As a Literacy Champion I have also helped at various Read Manchester events, where I have seen first-hand the excitement they bring to children and families and the valuable service Read Manchester provides. These events have also highlighted to me that not all children have access to books, and not all children live in those fantasy stories I did as a child.

Become a Literacy Champion

I would encourage anyone interested in reading or supporting their local community, to become a Literacy Champion. It is very rewarding, you get to meet other volunteers and extraordinary children and families, help at amazing events, make new friends and network. There is a real sense of togetherness and brilliant support within the team.

Initiatives such as Read Manchester are vital to improving literacy levels in Manchester, and I am honoured to be involved as a volunteer.

If you are interested in becoming a Literacy Champion like Rachel, please visit our Volunteer page for more information, or email

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