Libraries bracing for book loan boom as Summer Reading Challenge launches

• Children set to read more than sixteen million books over the summer
• Theme of kindness takes a front seat as children navigate news headlines
• Dermot O’Leary supports Challenge in bid to turn Brit kids into bookworms

The Reading Agency, the national charity inspiring people to read for pleasure and wellbeing, is advising libraries to brace for a book loan boom as three-quarters of a million kids embark on this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, which launches this week.

The charity, which runs the annual Challenge in partnership with libraries, predicts that children will read sixteen million books over the summer break. This year’s theme, Animal Agents, is illustrated by Tony Ross, the UK’s best-selling children’s illustrator, and will see kids reading to reveal clues to help them crack a case in the library.

Aiming to inspire children to read for pleasure, the free programme – available in 98% of libraries across England, Scotland and Wales – encourages children aged four to eleven to read at least six library books over the summer. Free access to books at the library is combined with fun social activities and a website where they can review the books they’ve read and unlock prizes.

Themes of empathy and kindness

_DSC4210.jpgAmong the favourites this year, The Reading Agency believes stories that explore themes of kindness will take a front seat, as parents and carers try to help children make sense of difficult events that have dominated the news headlines this year. Several books that bring themes of friendship and inclusion together with the animal theme are included in this year’s booklist.

Such titles include Can I Join Your Club?, by John Kelly and Steph Laberis, which is a tale about a duck who wants to join a club but no one will let him join in. Mercy the Hippo, by Lauren St. John and Nila Aye, is about a girl whose friendship with a hippo is initially frowned upon by her family and friends.

“Reading helps us understand different perspectives”

The Reading Agency CEO, Sue Wilkinson says:

“Books are a companion through life’s ups and downs. While reading cannot solve the complex problems that we face at the moment, it does help us to reach across countries and cultures, to understand and value different perspectives and develop empathy for others.

“Developing these skills begins with enjoying books and reading as a child. This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme, Animal Agents, is designed to encourage kids to read at least six books this summer. The theme comes directly from the feedback we’ve received from children who told us that they love animals and mystery.

“I hope we will see kids up and down the country solving a fun mystery at their local libraries and, as they work with Bernice the bear, Daisy the rabbit and others, realising just how important being a good friend is in helping them to do that.”

Dermot O’Leary, an advocate for the Summer Reading Challenge campaign says:

“My love of books started at a very young age; it played a massive role in my childhood.

“I love the Summer Reading Challenge because it enables children to transition reading from being an activity you do in the confines of a classroom to something you can do for a bit of fun in your spare time. It instils in kids a real sense of pride in their achievements, and sets them up with a positive relationship with reading that is priceless in the future.

“A person who enjoys reading is never bored, you can be anywhere – a beach, a train, a playground – and when you pick up a book you are transported into the pages and far away, that’s what makes reading magic.”

Alongside themes of kindness, some reigning favourites for book-loving kids are popular in libraries every year, with Jacqueline Wilson holding the crown of ‘most popular children’s author’. Wilson’s books were borrowed a staggering 25 million times between 1996 and 2016.

Inter-generational classics also have strong staying power in the library loan list with Eric Hill, Roald Dahl and Mick Inkpen all being featured in Public Lending Right’s top 20 list of the UK’s ‘most borrowed children’s authors’ every single year for the past decade.

Sign up to the 2017 Animal Agents Summer Reading Challenge by visiting your local library.

Get involved

Visit the Summer Reading Challenge website for more information, games and book recommendations

Reading Friends: how our new programme is coming to life

Reading Friends, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, is being co-produced with older people, including people with dementia, carers and disabled people. Katie Pekacar blogs on what’s involved in developing a new programme.

In June 2016 The Big Lottery Fund awarded The Reading Agency £2.1 million over four years to develop Reading Friends, a new programme designed to reduce loneliness and start conversations with vulnerable and isolated older people through reading.

At the time it seemed almost impossible to imagine that we would be hosting an event in the Library of Birmingham less than one year on, with representatives from six projects ready to launch their reading activities in communities across England, Scotland and Wales. But that is exactly what we did last week – and it has been a busy year to get to that point!

Building relationships

The project has been entirely co-produced with older people, including people with dementia, carers and disabled people. At several points we’ve changed our ideas completely as a result of this process – for example, the design of the leaflet, how we describe the programme and even the format of the programme itself, moving from a reading challenge, to a more inclusive befriending model.

We have also developed important partnerships with Literature Wales and Scottish Book Trust, who will help us develop Reading Friends so that it meets the need in those nations. Our partners also include a number of national charities and the network of public libraries across England, Wales and Scotland, to ensure we’re building on existing work and infrastructure.

Test project get together

So last week we all met up and heard from each of our six test projects about their exciting proposals to adapt and deliver Reading Friends to meet the needs in their area over the next 12 months. Although we can’t do justice to all their plans, here are some short examples:

• In Sheffield, Dementia Action Alliance is working with Sheffield Libraries to start conversations through reading with diverse audiences across the city, including a local Pakistani men’s reading group who are interested in Pakistani heritage and a dementia reading group meeting in an antiques shop

• In Conwy in Wales, Conwy Library Service will be working with isolated older farmers, many of whom have Welsh as their first language

• In Newcastle, Age UK Newcastle and Newcastle Libraries will be working together to bring Reading Friends to an existing befriending service

• Three different organisations across West Sussex – Age UK Horsham, Dementia Support in Chichester and the Abbeyfield Society in Horsted Keynes – will be trialling a networked approach to Reading Friends with West Sussex Libraries, providing the infrastructure support and access to a wide range of digital and assistive technologies

• In Stirling the library service will be looking at how oral storytelling can be used to engage isolated older people, especially those with Gaelic as a first language

• Oldham Library service will be using an asset based model to engage deprived and socially isolated communities in Oldham with designing and delivering Reading Friends so that it meets their needs

The Reading Friends team left the meeting feeling excited by all the brilliant ideas, energy and enthusiasm shown by the test projects. We look forward to continuing the journey of discovering what Reading Friends is and can be, together with all our partners and the communities they engage over the next year.

Get involved

If you want to find out more about Reading Friends email [email protected]

A list of our partner organisations:

Age UK
Alzheimer’s Society
British Psychological Society
Carers Trust
Carers UK
Carnegie Trust UK
Contact the Elderly
DCP Faculty of the Psychology of Older People
Dementia UK
Independent Age
Life Changes Trust
Literature Wales
SCL Wales
Scottish Book Trust
Scottish Library and Information Centre
Share The Vision
Libraries Connected
The Campaign to End Loneliness

No need for ‘Dr Google’: Library scheme gets Brits reading their way to better health

• The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians launch new strand of successful Reading Well Books on Prescription programme
• New scheme focuses on supporting 26 million people in England coping daily with long term health conditions
• Scheme is supported by Public Health England, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the National Association of Primary Care as well as other key partners
• Long term conditions account for 50% of GP appointments and 70% of hospital bed days

The Reading Agency, the national charity inspiring people to read for pleasure and wellbeing, and The Society of Chief Librarians have launched a new strand of the acclaimed Reading Well Books on Prescription programme into English libraries. The new scheme focuses on supporting those living with long term conditions such as arthritis, bowel conditions, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Available from English public libraries from July 2017, the scheme aims to provide millions of patients, carers and the general public with the tools to better understand and confidently self-manage their conditions.

The new 28 title book list of health information, self-help and memoir has been developed by the charity and expert partners to offer guidance and factual support to those living with illness and their carers. Research shows that people see their library as a safe, trusted and non-stigmatised place to go for health information. Between the pages of the recommended books, people living with long term conditions can find answers to some of the questions that may be on their minds – from dealing with pain, fatigue and sleeping problems, to relationships and mental health and wellbeing.

An accredited medical alternative

A recent survey revealed that people are almost as likely to use search engines to access health advice as they are to visit their GP. With a huge amount of misinformation on the internet, Reading Well provides an alternative trusted source of information and advice that people can feel confident accessing.

Created with the support of a number of leading health organisations and those with lived-experience of the conditions featured, the booklist offers an accredited medical alternative to the infamous Dr Google.

Health professionals such as GPs can recommend books to patients they are treating with long term conditions or people can self refer using the recommended book lists. All the books are available in English public libraries.

The Reading Well for long term conditions book list was created as part of Society of Chief Librarians’ Public Library Heath Offer, with funding from Arts Council England and Wellcome.

Professor Martin Marshall, Vice Chair of External Affairs at the Royal College of GPs, says:

“There is an enormous need for quality assured health information and advice supporting people to understand and manage the physical and wellbeing impact of living with a long term condition. The Reading Well scheme gives those living with long term conditions a trustworthy and approved source to find this information. It enables patients to feel better equipped and more confident in managing their illness, giving them confidence and helping them feel they have more control over their condition.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, CEO of The Reading Agency says:

“We have seen great success and had very positive feedback on our previous booklists for Reading Well Books on Prescription, so we are proud to launch the latest scheme in the programme, which provides a cost-effective and quality assured way for delivering community based help for those living with long term conditions.

“We recognise it’s incredibly tough to manage a long term condition. This booklist enables patients to find information and answers to their questions in their local community, in the safe, trusted space of their local library.”

Neil MacInnes, President of the Society of Chief Librarians says:

“The new Reading Well for long term conditions scheme is quality assured and evidence based and will be available through the public library network across the country, providing a new frontline community service in an area of enormous need. We are delighted to be working with The Reading Agency and health partners to deliver this important new scheme at public libraries.”

Sir Nicolas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, says:

“At the Arts Council, we’ve long-believed in the transformative powers of arts and culture for people’s health – and libraries play a large part in this. The new Reading Well scheme has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people living with long term conditions such as diabetes, stroke and heart
disease and so I’m delighted that we have been able to invest in it.”

Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture & Society, Wellcome, says:

“Public libraries are amazing places, with a vital role to play creating healthier communities. By bringing together the role of public libraries as trusted providers with expertise from across the health sector Books on Prescription has the potential to improve people’s lives, and Wellcome is proud to be a partner in the scheme.”

Reading Well Books on Prescription is available in 97% of English public library authorities. Previous schemes have reached over 635,000 people with targeted mental health support for both adults and young people, as well as a book list for people with dementia and their carers.

The booklist

The core booklist for Reading Well for long term conditions is as follows:


Reading Agency-85-LowRes.jpg1. How to Feel Better: Practical Ways to Recover Well from Illness and Injury by Frances Goodhart and Lucy Atkins (2015)
2. Self-Management of Long-Term Health Conditions by Kate Lorig (ed.) (2014)

Common symptoms


3. Fighting Fatigue: A Practical Guide to Managing the Symptoms of CFS/ME by Sue Pemberton and Catherine Berry
4. Overcoming Chronic Fatigue by Mary Burgess and Trudie Chalder


5. Manage Your Pain by Michael Nicholas, Allan Molloy, Lee Beeston and Lois Tonkin
6. Overcoming Chronic Pain by Frances Cole, Helen Macdonald, Catherine Carus and Hazel Howden-Leach
7. Pain is Really Strange by Steve Haines and Sophie Standing

Sleep problems

8. An Introduction to Coping with Insomnia and Sleep Problems by Colin Espie

Mental health and wellbeing

9. Coping with the Psychological Effects of Illness: Strategies to Manage Anxiety and Depression by Fran Smith, Robert Bor and Karina Eriksen
10. Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman

Selected long term conditions

Reading Agency-104-LowRes.jpg


11. Arthritis: A Practical Guide to Getting On With Your Life by Chris Jenner
12. Arthritis: Exercise Your Way to Health by Paula Coates

Bowel conditions

13. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Answers at Your Fingertips by Udi Shmueli
14. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Navigating Your Way to Recovery by Megan Arroll and Christine Dancey
15. Go Your Crohn Way: A Gutsy Guide to Living with Crohn’s Disease by Kathleen Nicolls

Breathing difficulties

16. Asthma: Answers at Your Fingertips by Mark Levy, Monica Fletcher and Soren Pederson
17. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): the Facts by Graeme P. Currie


18. Diabetes for Dummies by Alan L. Rubin
19. Diabetes: The Facts by David Matthews, Niki Meston, Pam Dyson, Jenny Shaw, Laurie King and Aparna Pal
20. Type 2 Diabetes in Adults of All Ages by Charles Fox and Anne Kilvert

Heart disease

21. Heart Attack Survival Guide by Mark Greener
22. Living with Angina by Tom Smith
23. Understanding and Dealing with Heart Disease by Keith Souter


24. Stroke: the Facts by Richard Lindley
25. Rebuilding Your Life After Stroke by Reg Morris, Malin Falck, Tamsin Miles, Julie Wilcox, Sam Fisher-Hicks
26. How I Rescued My Brain: A Psychologist’s Remarkable Recovery from Stroke and Trauma by David Roland

Support for relatives and carers

27. The Carer’s Handbook: Essential Information and Support for All Those in a Caring Role by Jane Matthews
28. The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring: How to Cope With the Emotional and Practical Aspects of Caring for Someone by Hugh Marriot

Get involved

Find out more about the scheme on the Reading Well website

The Reading Agency

Join our mailing list

Get our newsletters to stay up to date with programme news, resources, news and more.

Back to Top