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Our Approach

#938 The Reading Project – Norwich Manga Festival

Donna Ling, Librarian, Open Academy

What did we do?

Schools across Norwich attended a virtual Manga festival. This was a day-long event featuring talks from an author and illustrator (Sonia Leong) and an expert in the field (Rayna Denision), as well as practical drawing sessions (Sonia Leong and James Parsons). The sessions were streamed over Zoom/ Teams and over 1000 pupils from 6 schools in the region took part. 

Work with Manga and graphic novels also took place around the event with schools taking part in a cross-school Art Competition (the winners were announced during the Festival), lunchtime crafts and Excelsior Award shadowing. 

I really enjoyed having a whole day on something I am passionate about.

I find reading more fun when I read something fun.

I want to continue reading and look at making my own Manga and learn more about Japan.

Manga has made me more interested to read books.

I enjoyed myself and learnt at the same time.

I learnt that Manga isn’t just the story but the artwork too.

Feedback from staff and students who attended the Norwich Manga Festival.

Summary of impact

As a virtual event, it was able to have an extremely wide reach (over 1000 pupils). The virtual setting also offered schools some flexibility in how it was run (one school was only able to join 1 or 2 sessions, whereas another ran a whole cross-curricular day themed on Japan linked to the Tokyo Olympics). Students on the whole gave positive feedback about their enjoyment of the day and expressed that it had been a learning experience. 

The festival helped to expand and promote the libraries’ Manga and Graphic novel collections to students. All schools reported that this was one of their most popular areas and welcomed the opportunity to expand their collections.  

The event and new titles have also encouraged new students into the library who would not normally borrow traditional texts but were eager to try Manga. 45% of students who responded indicated an increase in their attitudes to reading as a result of the event. 

This was not necessarily a planned aim, but student feedback does seem to suggest that for many students the event was a positive experience for their wellbeing and confidence. Many students commented on their pride in their work or being surprised by what they had achieved in the day.   

By offering a space for their interests, and supporting different activities, interests and reading styles, we demonstrated to these students that they can have positive learning experiences and reinforced the library/ reading with positive feelings. Students with positive attitudes to learning/ the library are more likely to engage and use the library. The links we have made with other librarians has also been great and some of us our still working together to this day. 

Steps taken


Lots of work was put into planning the event to ensure it went smoothly and could have the most impact. This involved discussing ideas with students and staff, creating a working group of librarians planning the event in their schools, sharing ideas and getting feedback from the working group, speaking to other librarians who had run events to this scale, planning the event speakers and timings, working with school leaders and IT staff about specific school requirements (what year groups and staff would be involved, when is it happening, what do we need), sharing responsibilities and ensuring everyone knew what they had been asked to do, communicating regularly to keep everyone up to date. 


Creating library displays with the speaker’s books; sharing flyers and posters; running lunchtime activities to build excitement and prepare questions for the speakers; visiting classrooms to speak to students; sharing details in staff briefings and parent newsletters. 

On the Day 

A timetable had been given to staff so they knew what was happening when. Links to the sessions had been provided and IT support was on hand. All the planning and prep work meant the event ran smoothly.  


We created a questionnaire to gather feedback about the event. A draft was put together after seeking advice from other librarians. The working group were invited to comment on this and it was edited accordingly. Copies were sent to all schools involved and we had a high response rate. The results were digitalised for easier analysis. 

Following the event, many of the staff involved met again and set up a cross-school book group for shadowing the Excelsior Award. 

What would we do differently

Make sure you get help and give yourself plenty of time! This was a big event that took hours of work and I wish I had been better at asking for help to share the load a bit more evenly. 

Also think carefully about the planning of the day and work in breaks between every speaker/ event. Even if only for 5-10 minutes, an opportunity to stretch legs between session 1 and 2 would have been beneficial. 

If I were to plan something similar in the future, I would also prefer an in-person event. While it’s unlikely we could have accommodated as many students, the presence of a speaker in the flesh may have helped to better engage some students who struggled with the longer periods of sitting and listening. Interactive and practical sessions were built into the day, but more could have been made of this in an in-person visit. 


The event was funded by the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA). It was costed at £4000 (£4 per student). 

£2500 of this went towards the cost of the festival, while the remaining funds contributed to costs involved in Excelsior Shadowing and art supplies to run craft activities in the library in the lead up to the event.

Resources required

Resources included: 

  • Speaker costs (for an in-person event additional travel and catering costs may apply). 
  • Cover for staff (this may not be required depending on the specific school setting). 
  • Stationary (paper and pencils ect.) for draw-a-long events. 
  • Books written by the visiting speakers for the library to help promote the event (these will help boost your library collection following the event). 
  • Arts and craft materials for displays and student clubs (again leading in and promoting the event. 
  • Copying and printing costs for posters, evaluation forms ect. 
  • Prizes for competition and engagement (i.e. we did a raffle prize of book tokens for those who returned evaluation forms and had small prizes for students who asked good questions). 
  • Excelsior Award Book Packs. 
  • Catering, printing and stationary supplies for Excelsior Shadowers’ Celebration event.

See how others have implemented this Big Idea


Donna Ling, Librarian

Open Academy, Salhouse Road

Norwich, Norfolk