The Summer Reading Challenge: behind the scenes
Each summer Richmond upon Thames Library Services, along with many other library authorities in the country, challenge children aged 4 – 11 to read six library books between mid-July and early September. For doing this they earn a medal and a certificate: they also collect stickers in a special folder to record their reading progress throughout the scheme.
The Summer Reading Challenge was launched by The Reading Agency in 1999. The scheme runs each summer in collaboration with a public library services. The Summer Reading Challenge aims not only to provide a fun activity to engage children during the long summer break from school but also to inspire them to continue reading at a time when reading levels drop perceptibly.
It may be called the Summer Reading Challenge but work to ensure it runs smoothly starts well before the summer – in fact a whole year before.
The Reading Agency reveals to library authorities the theme of the following year’s Summer Reading Challenge and the name of the artist who will design the eye catching illustrations to make everything appealing to children in the target age group.
In 2016 The Big Friendly Read was delivered in collaboration with The Roald Dahl Literary Estate and featured some of Roald Dahl’s characters illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake. In 2017 illustrator Tony Ross designed the art work for Animal Agents and in 2018 The Reading Agency worked with the Beano in their 80th anniversary year to create Mischief Makers, Summer Reading Challenge 2018.
Orders for all the resources needed for the coming summer holiday must be submitted in January, which means we must estimate how many children are likely to sign up to the challenge and what percentage of them will earn a medal and certificate. Even though the Summer Reading Challenge is completely free to children to take part, all the resources are paid for by the library service so it is important at this stage to make a realistic estimate.
In spring 2018 we received our Mischief Makers promotional posters, sets of Beano map collector folders and stickers, medals and certificates at a central location in good time for the challenge which ran between 14 July and 8 September.
How do children hear about The Summer Reading Challenge?
Richmond upon Thames libraries work closely with the Borough’s primary schools each year to encourage children to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge. In April 2018 a letter was sent to head teachers which offered a visit to their school by a librarian to talk to the pupils about Mischief Makers at a whole-school assembly. In June and July 2018 our librarians visited 29 primary school assemblies to inspire children to continue reading over the summer months. The librarians spoke about Mischief Makers and explained how to take part in the challenge. The idea was to spark children’s interest by showing the images of Dennis, Gnasher and their friends on the Mischief Makers poster and provoke excitement within the schools when children recognised the characters from the comic!
Mischief Makers was widely advertised in the Borough with posters displayed in all our libraries, on community notice boards and with regular posts on the Library Services’ Facebook and Twitter accounts. As a national initiative Mischief Makers, Summer Reading Challenge 2018 had its own website featuring a lively video of Dennis and Gnasher, and an edition of the Beano comic published during the summer included a humorous comic strip about Dennis and Gnasher borrowing library books to take part in Mischief Makers.
Any child aged between 4 and 11 years old can join in the Summer Reading Challenge: they only need to be a member of a local public library. If they were not already a member they could join the library and sign up to Mischief Makers at the same time. Children were then given a resources pack. This pack is different every year and follows the theme for that year. In 2018 it was a Mischief Maker collector map of Beanotown and the challenge was explained to them:
For each library book they borrowed and read they were entitled to collect a sticker to put on their Beanotown map and ask to have their library account updated. There were six stickers to collect and on receiving their sixth sticker they were given their Mischief Makers medal to keep. In order to earn a medal a child must have read and returned their sixth book before the closing date of 8 September. Certificates of all the children who completed Mischief Makers were printed and sent to schools in October after the autumn half term, while certificates for those children who would be moving up to secondary school in the autumn term were sent to their home address.
An incredible 4,137 children in the borough were inspired by Mischief Makers in 2018 to read during the summer holiday and 3,331 of them read six books and earned a medal and certificate. Between 9 July and 16 September 131,525 children’s books, audiobooks, eBooks and DVDs were borrowed in libraries in Richmond upon Thames.
Summer Reading Challenge 2019
In 2019 the theme for the Summer Reading Challenge will be Space Chase to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landings. Art work for Space Chase will be by illustrator Adam Stower. www.worldofadam.com
Children can use the Book Sorter to find titles of books they might enjoy: they can enter competitions, play games and send in book recommendations. The Summer Reading challenge is free for children to take part in, it is fun and provides an exciting incentive to carry on reading over the summer holidays.
The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge website is accessible all year https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/
[Janice Pratt, Librarian]