Adele Parks presents prize to Reading Ahead winner

The Reading Agency took bestselling author and Reading Ahead ambassador, Adele Parks, to The Manchester College, St John’s Centre on Friday 22 November. She presented ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) student Sunara Begum with her Reading Ahead certificate and prize for winning the Reading Ahead national draw and spoke to creative writing and ESOL students at the college.

Reading Ahead at The Manchester College

Reading Ahead encourages students to challenge themselves to read and review six reads – they don’t have to be books. The Manchester College run the programme over an academic year with a range of students including those studying ESOL and functional skills. The Manchester College received a Platinum Award for having 630 students complete the programme in 2018/19.

Adele took part in a Q&A session with students, who asked questions about the experience of being a writer, the importance of reading and how to get published.

Adele said that Reading Ahead is, “Important because reading is so good for education, empathy and mental health. Creativity brings us together and many students at The Manchester College are writing themselves which is great to see. Hopefully the students have found today informative and inspiring.”

Reading Ahead prize draw

After the Q&A Adele presented Sunara with first prize in the Reading Ahead national prize draw. Her prize is to have her name written into Adele’s next book that will be coming out in 2021. Adele presented Sunara with her Reading Ahead certificate and a signed copy of Adele’s latest novel Lies, Lies, Lies at the event.

Sunara, who studies on the ESOL Entry Level 2 Programme at The Manchester College, said: “I’m really happy to have received this certificate, and I really enjoyed taking part in the Six Book Challenge (Reading Ahead).”

Sunara’s tutor, Sheila Hampson, also attended the event and said: “Sunara has worked so hard for this. She has done everything I’ve asked of her and is now speaking English with confidence. She is a very worthy winner.”

Get involved

Visit the Reading Ahead site to find out more about the programme and choose your next read

Find out about our new Quick Reads for 2020, which can be used as part of Reading Ahead

The Reading Agency chosen for The Times Christmas Appeal 2019

The Reading Agency is a UK-wide charity using the proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges of social mobility, mental health and wellbeing and loneliness. Every year the organisation reaches 1.4 million people across the UK with the support of 13,817 partner organisations, ensuring that everyone is reading their way to a better life. This Christmas, The Reading Agency has been selected as one of the charities to be featured in The Times Christmas Appeal for 2019.

The Christmas Appeal will focus on the charity’s work on loneliness and reading, highlighting their inspiring Reading Friends programme. Launched in 2017 with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, Reading Friends tackles loneliness using reading to start conversations and connect people socially. The scheme uses the power of a shared story in libraries, prisons, care homes, community centres, and recovery cafes to tackle loneliness in the UK.

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, says: ”We’re delighted to be included in this year’s Christmas Appeal in The Times. It’s a really fantastic opportunity to highlight the impact that reading can have on tackling loneliness and social isolation. As a charity, we’re committed to ensuring that everyone has the tools to read their way to a better life, and our Reading Friends programme is a testament to the impact that shared reading can have.”

A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross found that over 9 million people across the UK are either always or often lonely, and Christmas is a time when this becomes particularly evident. Last year, The Reading Agency also commissioned think-tank Demos to conduct independent research into the impact of reading on some of society’s most pressing concerns. The report, A Society of Readers, predicted that there will be over seven million people experiencing loneliness in the over-60 age group alone, and that almost two million will have a shortened life due to loneliness.

Damian Hughes, son of Reading Friends participant Brian, says: “I have witnessed the terrible fog of isolation, fear and loneliness which can descend upon those who live with the cruel illness of dementia which considerably narrows their world. I have also witnessed the transformative ability that reading can have upon this condition; helping to open memories, and stir long-dormant emotions. Reading Friends provides this stimulus for many people, from those who are living with the condition, their carers and loved ones alike. I think the work of The Reading Agency is invaluable.”

Reading Friends now has 45 projects across the UK designed to address loneliness throughout the year. Last year, the programme reached over 1,500 participants and 200 volunteers through 21 local projects. Data from the programme has found that 94% of Reading Friends participants would recommend Reading Friends to others, and that 90% of volunteers want to carry on volunteering on a Reading Friends project. The Reading Agency is hopeful that The Times Christmas Appeal will inspire readers to help the charity continue their important work tackling life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. 

For more media information please contact 0207 324 2553 or [email protected]

Get involved

Find out more about Reading Friends by visiting the website

Visit The Times Christmas Appeal page to make your donation

Donate via JustGiving to help support our work tackling loneliness through reading

The Summer Reading Challenge encourages 722,731 children to read this summer

  • 722,731 children took part in Space Chase in libraries across the UK, and in 21 countries internationally
  • This includes 37,177 pre-school participants – a 32% increase on 2018
  • 45% of participants were boys despite research suggesting that boys engage less with reading
  • Over 2.5 million library books were read as part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge
  • A total of 94,258 children joined the library for the first time in order to take part in the Challenge: an increase of 13% on 2018
  • 95% of library authorities across England, Scotland and Wales took part in the Challenge
  • Almost 10,000 volunteers helped us support the Challenge in 2019
  • 2020 Challenge ‘Silly Squad’ will celebrate funny books and feature bespoke artwork from award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Laura Ellen Anderson

The Reading Agency and public libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge has been instilling a love of books in children for over twenty years. This year’s theme, Space Chase, was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and featured bespoke artwork from top children’s illustrator, Adam Stower. A total of 722,731 children took part across the UK and in 21 countries overseas through a partnership with the British Council; a 2.64% increase on last year’s participation.

95% of library authorities across England, Scotland and Wales took part this summer. This year the scheme engaged more children in reading than the year before, according to data released by The Reading Agency and Libraries Connected. Children taking part read a combined total of more than 2.5 million library books through the school holidays.

The Challenge has been designed to tackle the ‘summer slide’ that sees disadvantaged students taking up to six weeks to re-learn skills in the following school year where their more advantaged counterparts maintain or improve on literacy and numeracy. Research suggests that reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background. Through the Challenge we’re able to tackle the ‘summer slide’ and ensure that children are equipped with the skills to read their way to a better life.

“I’ve struggled for a long time to encourage my daughter to read and enjoy reading, she is a bit behind because of a hearing issue. The Summer Reading Challenge was a huge incentive which boosted her confidence and now she’s happy to read and is enjoying books. Just perfect.” Parent of an 8-9-year-old girl, Shropshire.

Research shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who often read for pleasure show a tendency to score more highly on tests than their more advantaged counterparts who do not read at all. Only 1 in 4 boys read outside of school every day, but this year’s participant report shows that 45% of Space Chase participants were boys.

“The Summer Reading Challenge inspired my 6-year-old not only to improve his reading skills by two stages, but also to extend his playing ideas. Looking to forward next summer!” Parent of a 6-year-old boy, Bedford.

This year’s overall figure includes 37,177 children under 4 taking part with special pre-school materials – an increase of 32% on last year. The Mini Challenge enables younger children to take part alongside older siblings and provides a family-friendly introduction to the local library. Reading as a family is a key way to help foster a love of reading in children and the Mini Challenge helps parents and carers build confidence to share stories and read aloud with their children.

Next year, the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge, Silly Squad, will be a celebration of funny books, happiness and laughter. The story will be set in a fun house and will feature a team of mad-cap animals who love to make people laugh. But be warned: a mysterious baddy is hoping to ruin their fun!

The Reading Agency is delighted to reveal that award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Laura Ellen Anderson, will be creating bespoke artwork for the 2020 Challenge. Laura is the creator of the Evil Emperor Penguin comic series, and picture books including I Don’t Want Curly Hair and I Don’t Want to be Small. The best-selling AMELIA FANG is Laura’s first fiction series as author-illustrator. The series has sold over 150k copies in the UK and is translated into over 20 languages worldwide. Laura has also illustrated Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder, the Harper series by Cerrie Burnell and covers for Terry Pratchett’s books and Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five.


Illustrations © Laura Ellen Anderson 2019

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, says: “I am delighted by the results of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. The programme delivered in partnership with public libraries helps us realise our mission of tacking life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading and opens up opportunities where everyone has access to reading their way to a better life. We know that reading for pleasure is vital for a child’s educational success, and the Challenge has helped give over 13 million children the tools to enable them to better navigate their growing-up years.”

Mark Freeman, President of Libraries Connected, says: “The Summer Reading Challenge has a powerful impact on children and their families, not only supporting children’s literacy and language skills but also ensuring they can enjoy positive fun activity in libraries during the long summer break. Libraries Connected are delighted to support The Reading Agency on the development of the Challenge each year and we are thrilled that almost 100,000 children joined their local library for the first time to take part.”

Laura Ellen Anderson, illustrator for Silly Squad, Summer Reading Challenge 2020, says: “I am incredibly honoured to be the illustrator for the 2020 Challenge. As a kid I loved going to my local library and I can still remember the Challenge in its very early days. So, to now be a part of such a wonderful scheme years down the line, I couldn’t be more excited to encourage lots of kids to read and visit their local libraries. It has been such a treat illustrating the Silly Squad characters and visualising all the funny things they get up to. The fact that the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge is a celebration of funny books is fantastic news and I, for one, am delighted to see funny books getting the recognition they deserve. They enlighten the soul and can introduce kids to the world of reading in a fun and accessible way.”

Get involved

Find out about the Winter Mini Challenge, which gets children into libraries during the long winter holiday.

Use the Summer Reading Challenge Book Sorter to help your child find their next read.

BBC panel reveal the 100 novels that have shaped their world

We are excited to be working with BBC Arts and Libraries Connected on their year-long celebration of literature, as an expert panel reveal the 100 English language titles that have shaped their world. From January until the culmination of festival during Libraries Week in October 2020, resources will be available for readers and reading groups around the 100 novels, divided into ten categories. These resources will provide information about the chosen themes, questions to spark discussion and further suggestions to widen your reading.

The list, which includes contemporary works such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and His Dark Materials series to classics like Pride & Prejudice and Middlemarch, is designed to spark debate about the novels that have had a big impact on us all personally and culturally, and will form the basis of digital reading resources that will be made available on the BBC Arts website from January 2020. Everyone is encouraged to share their own stories of the novels that have had the biggest impact on them, using the hashtag #mybooklife.

See the full list of books on the BBC Arts website.

The panellists – all passionate readers with established literary backgrounds – are; Stig Abell, Syima Aslam, Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal, Mariella Frostrup and Alexander McCall Smith.

To mark the publication of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719, a landmark moment 300 years ago thought to herald the birth of the English language novel, the books the panel have chosen are those that have had a personal impact on them. Divided into ten categories, their choices are wide ranging and inclusive and feature children’s books, contemporary classics, graphic novels, rollicking reads and some books that have contributed to a significant cultural shift.

The panellists will discuss their choices at a panel event from the British Library, chaired by Jo Whiley, which will be livestreamed onto BBC iPlayer and into libraries across the UK – on Friday 8 November at 1pm.

The list of 100 novels kicks off a year-long celebration of literature at the BBC, with new programming across TV, Radio and online, spearheaded by the landmark BBC Two three-part series Novels That Shaped Our World, beginning Saturday 9 November, 9pm. The series explores the novel from three unique perspectives: women’s voices, the empire and working class experiences. These unique films will argue that the novel has always been a revolutionary agent of social change, spearheading shifts in gender equality, colonial and post-colonial attitudes and social mobility.

The list also launches a year-long festival in partnership with libraries and reading groups around the UK. Led by Libraries Connected and supported by Arts Council England, special events at libraries around the country include workshops, walking tours, film screenings and live performances, with many libraries commissioning artists to make work that reaches out to everyone in the community, from people living with dementia to those at risk of knife crime.

Jonty Claypole, Director, BBC Arts:
‘We asked our prestigious panel to create a list of world-changing novels that would provocative, spark debate and inspire curiosity. It took months of enthusiastic debate and they have not disappointed. There are neglected masterpieces, irresistible romps as well as much-loved classics. It is a more diverse list than any I have seen before, recognising the extent to which the English language novel is an art form embraced way beyond British shores. Best of all, it is just the start of a year of documentaries, author profiles, podcasts and outreach events all designed to do one thing and inspire everyone, whoever they are, to read more novels because of the proven life-enhancing benefits it brings.’

Mark Freeman, President, Libraries Connected:
‘This amazing campaign lies at the heart of libraries’ mission to deliver innovative and engaging reading experiences to communities who need it most. Yet again, we would like to thank the Arts Council for funding this work which will enable libraries, in partnership with BBC Arts and grass roots arts organisations, to introduce new audiences to the joys of reading.’

Get involved

Join a reading group, sign yours up or start your own for exclusive offers from publishers at Reading Groups For Everyone

Explore more booklists on Reading Groups for Everyone

Share the novels that have shaped your world on social media using @readingagency and #mybooklife

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