HAF in Libraries Summer 2023

by Sharon Bartholomew, HAF Partnership Officer

Oct 16 2023

children playing at a library HAF project

Hampshire Library Service bid for £23,700 of funding from the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme to provide activities aimed at children eligible to free school meals (FSM) and those from low-income families.

The multiple objectives of the grant were to improve opportunities for participation in the summer reading challenge through access to libraries, reach additional unique children that qualify for the HAF programme, expand the number of sessions that children access, to provide supplementary activities, to extend the reach of HAF and encourage HAF families to become library members and visitors.

A total of 17 libraries received funding. These were identified as being free school meal hotspots and having HAF providers within easy reach of the library.

38 targeted activities included:

  • Introduction to the library offer to include joining the library, joining the summer reading challenge
  • Games to link with the theme of the summer reading challenge: Ready, Set, Read
  • Self-led craft activities
  • Performer (e.g. storyteller, theatre, entertainer) or workshop
  • Refreshments and lunch bag provided

Performers were commissioned to deliver some sessions including Yoga for Children taster sessions, Commotion Dance performed interactive storytelling, Zoolab animal handling experience, balloon modelling and Junk Jodie recycling craft.

All libraries contacted local HAF providers, schools, community partners including foodbanks, pantries and local children’s partnerships as well as borough and district councils to promote the scheme and target FSM children.

Alton, Basingstoke and Havant libraries visited HAF providers to deliver sessions promoting the Summer Reading Challenge and the library offer reaching approximately 200 children.

According to data:

  • 731 children attended events
  • 37% were from families where children eligible for FSM or from low income families
  • 87% were library members (we didn’t capture if any of these joined the library as a result of the event)
  • 60% of children said they were doing the SRC (we didn’t capture if any of these joined as a result of the event)

Feedback from families 

Fun and educational. Great idea for the summer holidays to encourage children to keep learning whilst school is closed. Keep up the good work!
Relaxing, imaginative, fun. It’s great to introduce them to new activities and new ways to relax. Its lovely to have a free activity when times are difficult and the weather is rubbish so the kids are unable to play outside. Thank you. The teacher was amazing with the kids.
Such a lovely event, really well planned. Really welcoming team at the library and I am so impressed with the resources. It feels like a really fantastic community space. We will look out for more events and definitely plan to spend more time at the library here. And thank you so much for the goodie [food] bags!

Feedback from library staff

One mother shared with me that she didn’t know that the library was here. Her nearest library had been South Ham and since it closed her children hadn’t been to the library much.  She had found out about the event through a Facebook post and decided to sign up for the HAF events. On visiting Chineham she was impressed with the library and the shopping centre and has said she will now be bringing here children to the library here given the added draw of the nearby supermarket, shops, and free parking. Her children both registered for and completed the Summer Reading Challenge.
Feedback from the Library Team Manager at Chineham Library
Nancy and Ruby attended [Ready steady go event] and Mum, when asked if she attended any other free events had attended this event and the Yoga at the library. She also sent her children to HAF on the island. Although this family do not receive free school meals, this year they have been very grateful for all the free children’s activities as the family budget has to stretch more because of the cost of living. They were very grateful for the food bag as she then didn’t have to feed the girls lunch. Mum does a lot of planning to keep her children occupied during the holidays and researches free activities within the local community. It helps to get the children out of the house and away from TV, PlayStation, etc. Mum knew we offered some events free for the local community but was not aware of all and in particular, the learning we offered for free. Both children had signed up for the SRC and Mum said it was another activity to take part in and in turn helps when they get back to school as they have continued to read throughout the summer. Coming into the library across the summer keeps them interested and they are rewarded with a medal and certificate once they have completed the challenge.
Feedback from the Library Team Manager at Hayling Island Library
A family (mum and two children) that came for the first time to a HAF event, then proceeded to come to Construction club and Stay and Play and signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge, and has been in every week.
Hythe Library staff feedback
A new family to the library, who have been struggling as both currently don’t work, signed up thanks to the HAF event.
Totton Library staff
Two children and their dad attended a HAF event. The dad had been recently made redundant and was very grateful for the free activity and lunch bag as they hadn’t got anything planned for lunch. There were a couple of bags left at the end of the session so they were able to take these away for a picnic at the Hogmoor Enclosure the following day.
Bordon Library staff


  • Over a third of the children attending were from the target group
  • The activities attracted some non library members
  • The feedback we received on the quality of the offer was overwhelmingly positive
  • 89% of feedback rated the activities 9 or 10 out of 10
  • Library staff were rated as friendly and welcoming
  • We arranged a wide range of activities within a short time frame


  • The funding was confirmed in June giving a short time frame for planning at a time when libraries are preparing and promoting the summer reading challenge (planning starts early in the summer term to book in visits to schools to promote SRC)
  • All libraries contacted HAF providers but there was limited success in establishing contact to promote offer and attend HAF sessions
  • Although over a third of attendees were eligible for FSM or from low income families a lot of attendees were not in that category


  • Ensure discussions re funding take place earlier to allow for planning and promotion
  • Continue to work with Children’s Services colleagues to build relationships with HAF providers
  • Capture data relating to library joining and SRC participation as a result of HAF activities
  • Roll out programme to more libraries to extend the reach and accessibility to FSM children
  • Explore funding for a member of staff to lead on this project