First Ambassadors Announced for 2020 Summer Reading Challenge

Jacqueline Wilson, Paul O’Grady, Cressida Cowell, Charlie Condou, Philip Ardagh, David Baddiel, Rob Biddulph, Sam and Mark, Hacker T Dog, Ben Fogle, Joseph Coehlo, Katie Thistleton, Harry Baker and Konnie Huq confirmed to support Summer Reading Challenge 2020.

The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge 2020 today (27 May) announces the initial line-up of stars in children’s publishing and entertainment who have pledged their support for this year. The nation’s most popular reading challenge which engages over 700,000 children each summer launches in an all-new digital format this year due to Covid-19 and the ongoing social distancing measures in schools and public libraries.

The star-studded list of ambassadors includes: CBBC presenters Sam and Mark; children’s author Jacqueline Wilson; comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady; Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell; comedian and author David Baddiel; TV adventurer Ben Fogle; former Blue Peter presenter and children’s author Konnie Huq; performance poet Joseph Coelho and CBBC’s Hacker T Dog reunited with Radio 1’s Katie Thistleton.

They are joined by children’s authors including Rob Biddulph, Philip Ardagh, Guy Bass, Steven Butler, Gareth P Jones, J M Joseph, Jennifer Killick and Silly Squad illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson, all of whom have books in the official Silly Squad book collection. Founder of The Shed School Ashley Bates, illustrator Johanna Basford OBE, actress and comedian Samantha Baines, author and game designer Gabrielle Kent, plus bestselling authors David McKee, Milly Johnson, Dorothy Koomson, Kit de Waal and Kate Clanchy MBE are also offering their support for the campaign.

Jacqueline Wilson, author and supporter of the Summer Reading Challenge says: “I feel the Summer Reading Challenge is extra important this year! How sensible to have a Silly theme. We’ve all had to deal with serious and scary issues, so it’s time for a bit of fun. There are so many comical and crazy children’s books to cheer us all up. Let’s get reading and get happy!”

The Summer Reading Challenge will run from June to September, launching on Friday 5 June with a virtual Let’s Get Silly programme running from the Summer Reading Challenge’s Facebook page. The launch will feature special super silly readings, family activities and draw-a-longs from guest celebrities and authors. Over the summer, libraries will continue to run the Challenge in partnership with The Reading Agency, delivering it via virtual services and e-lending platforms, and adapting their delivery if social distancing measures develop and change.

The full schedule will be announced the week commencing Monday 1st June with the following virtual events already confirmed:

  • CBBC’s Sam and Mark kick-off the party with their unique brand of ‘silly’ fun.
  • Readings and jokes from authors including David Baddiel, Ben Fogle, Philip Ardagh, Paul O’Grady, Konnie Huq and Samantha Baines.
  • Silly Time with the BBC’s Katie Thistleton and Hacker T Dog.
  • Draw-a-Longs with official Summer Reading Challenge illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson, and Rob Biddulph.
  • Magic Tricks and Mind-Bending Maths with Mr Bates from The Shed School.
  • Poetry with performance poet and playwright Joseph Coelho.
  • Crafts, colour and creativity with the original queen of colouring, Johanna Basford.
  • Bedtime Reading session with actor Charlie Condou reading from This is Gus by Chris Chatterton, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.
  • Unveiling of the official ‘Let’s Get Silly!’ theme song by Harry Baker and Chris Read.

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency commented: “The Reading Agency are ready to have a seriously silly summer! (Why do Giraffes have long legs?) We are looking forward to the nation’s families joining the Silly Squad and taking part in the brand-new digital Summer Reading Challenge. Like previous years the Challenge is free to access, and we are working with libraries, schools and publishers to reach as many young people as possible – especially those who find accessing digital difficult. We are pleased to announce our wonderful ambassadors, including the fantastic Summer Reading Challenge book collection authors who are joining us this year, and we can’t wait for the 5th June and the Let’s Get Silly launch event! (because they have smelly feet….)”

Get involved

For interviews and general press enquiries, please contact Shona Abhyankar at ed public relations – [email protected].

For further information on The Reading Agency please contact Saffeya Shebli – [email protected]

Illustrations © Laura Ellen Anderson 2020

Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency
#SummerReadingChallenge/ #SillySquad2020

The Summer Reading Challenge Asks The Nation to Join the Silly Squad!

The Reading Agency announced today (Tuesday 12 May) that the Summer Reading Challenge will return for 2020 with a new website, where children aged 4 – 11 can take part in the Challenge and a “Let’s Get Silly” virtual launch event that the whole family can enjoy.

With the disruption caused by COVID-19 and the impact of social distancing on schools and public libraries, the all-new digital Summer Reading Challenge with its Silly Squad theme will launch earlier than usual to keep children reading over the summer and support parents and carers with children already at home. This year it will be running from June to September 2020. A whole host of virtual (super silly!) curated events with guest celebrities and authors will take place on Friday 5 June to mark the launch of the new digital Challenge. The website will be free to access, featuring games, quizzes and digital and downloadable activities to incentivise and encourage children and their families to take part in the Challenge at home. Although library buildings are closed, libraries will also continue to deliver the Challenge through virtual services and e-lending platforms.

The Summer Reading Challenge encourages children aged 4-11 to read during the long summer holiday with research showing that children’s reading can ‘dip’ severely during the summer if they do not have regular access to books. With school life disrupted and many children missing the company of their friends, this year’s Summer Reading Challenge will be all the more vital as a way of helping parents and carers find fun, family-friendly activities, maintain literacy levels and create a safe space for children to connect with their peers.

This year’s theme will also offer families a chance to have fun and just “GET SILLY!”, with children being encouraged to read anything that makes them happy – whether it be a comic, joke book, poetry, fiction or non-fiction, in digital or print format, from e-book lending through the public library service or from what they already have at home, with the Summer Reading Challenge official book collection as a guide.

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency commented: “We’re hugely excited to share our new digital Summer Reading Challenge with families across the country this year. The new digital offering will ensure that families and libraries can still take part in the Challenge and help us realise our mission of tacking life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. We are working closely with partners to distribute physical reading materials to those who cannot access digital and working with our library partners to deliver a blended digital and physical model when they reopen. In these difficult times it’s more important than ever that families find ways to have fun and be silly together, while ensuring that children receive the support they need to maintain and build their literacy skills and remain connected with their peers.”

Get involved

For interviews and general press enquiries, please contact Shona Abhyankar at ed public relations – [email protected].

For further information on The Reading Agency please contact Saffeya Shebli – [email protected]

Illustrations © Laura Ellen Anderson 2020

Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency
#SummerReadingChallenge/ #SillySquad2020

“Over seven million British adults are illiterate. It’s a soul destroying condition.”

Over seven million British adults are illiterate. It’s a soul-destroying condition, says David Reynolds, an adult-literacy teacher. David is one of the founders of the publisher Bloomsbury and has worked in publishing for 47 years. He is also the literacy editor for The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads programme. Here, he shares his experience of teaching adult-literacy.

The article ‘Who Can’t Read This?’ appears in full in the May edition of The Oldie magazine, out now in print and in a digital version.

A small, middle-aged man called Don suffered from appalling dyslexia. When he was a child, his left hand had been tied behind his back in an attempt to make him write with his right hand – a classic cause of befuddlement. He and I made no progress whatsoever. But he was sociable and liked coming to classes.

A welder, he made roof racks and had invented a tube – inside which plumbers transport pipes – that you see welded to the roof racks of vans everywhere.

The young man with Tourette’s was angry, and the drug dealer was soon back in prison. A young woman called Sonia – perhaps because of long illnesses – had left school without learning to write even the letter ‘a’. She was a hairdresser’s assistant, washing people’s hair and sweeping the floor. She was desperate to become a haircutter, but needed to pass a written health and safety test. She sat in the corner copying letters on prepared sheets, scowling and sometimes tearful.

Yet there were successes.

Thelma, in her sixties, wanted to read her own letters instead of having her husband read them to her. Within a few months, she was doing just that – and, after a year, she read a book: a ‘Quick Read’, written for ’emergent readers’ and containing mostly one- or two-syllable words. (Not many three-syllable words come easily to adults who are poor readers – just a few that are frequently seen, notably supermarket, cigarette and alcohol.) Thelma moved on to fat beach-reads which she swapped with her daughter. Jimmy joined the class and told me about his six-year-old son, Mike. ‘He came to me with his book and said, “Daddy, can you help me read this?” I had to say, “Go away. I can’t help.” But I want to help.’

Jimmy had left school in Jamaica when he was nine to help his fisherman father. Now he was a builder’s labourer – and a quick learner. Much that he had learned before he was nine came back to him. When I mentioned commas, he called out, ‘Hey, Teach’ – he insisted on calling me Teach – ‘I remember commas. We was doin’ them when I left school.’

After coming to two classes a week for a month or so, he was reading at home with Mike. ‘Can I bring him to class with me, Teach?’ And he did – to the evening class that ended at 8.30pm.

For the rest of the year, father and son sat side by side learning together. Sometimes Mike made even Sonia smile.

Get involved

Find out more about the Quick Reads programme and the titles for 2020.

Reading Unites Nation for Virtual World Book Night

People across the country join in The Reading Agency’s digital celebration of reading – as authors, poets and actors take part on TV, radio and social media

A nation in lockdown united last week on Shakespeare’s birthday, in celebration of books and reading, for The Reading Agency’s World Book Night. Pivoting to a digital format in light of Covid-19, the virtual celebration took place without the usual accompanying book giveaway – now tentatively scheduled for autumn when 50,000 books will be shared as we keep a nation reading.

The celebrations on 23 April began with the announcement of a recent survey conducted by The Reading Agency, showing a marked increase in reading habits across the nation, including results such as:

· Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) people are reading more during lockdown

· Almost half (45%) of young people (18-24) are reading more than before the lockdown

· 7 in 10 have been reading fiction

Interviews with authors, poets and actors were broadcast and shared online throughout the day, with contributors including Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo, Maggie O’Farrell, Matt Haig, Kate Mosse, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs and Owen Teale. Simon Callow filmed a reading of As You Like It, which will remain on the World Book Night website to keep the nation reading beyond the 23 April.

People of all ages and backgrounds joined to celebrate the proven power of reading. Families, reading groups, schools and individuals connected via social media to share their plans for the evening’s main event: the Reading Hour, between 7 – 8pm, which invited everyone to pick up a book, read a chapter by themselves or with family, or simply share their reading experiences with others online through the #ReadingHour hashtag. Libraries across the country, including Brighton & Hove, Paignton, Shetland, Wandsworth and North Tyneside rose to the challenge with hugely impressive virtual campaigns, hosting interactive quizzes, bedtime story readings and interviews throughout the evening. Social media engagement for the virtual celebration included an 117k reach on Facebook, and over 400k impressions across Twitter – with a total social media reach of over 14 million.

The BBC covered the event across the day, beginning with the survey announcement in the morning and continuing with shout-outs and interviews across Radio 1, Radio 4 and 5 Live, a BBC Live page featuring author contributions, and an interview with Sharon D Clarke on Radio 4’s Front Row to welcome in the Reading Hour. Clarke, who said she was currently enjoying Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, read an extract from Bedtime Stories for Stressed out Adults by Lucy Mangan.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: “This year’s World Book Night celebrations provided a really wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the proven power of reading to connect people. This connectivity has never been needed more than at this anxious time of social distancing. Talking about reading and sharing book recommendations on 23 April as part of #ReadingHour bought individuals, friends, families, and communities together to connect a nation in self-isolation. The Reading Agency’s mission of tacking life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading has never felt more meaningful.”

Get involved

Follow the latest developments on social media: @WorldBookNight / @ReadingAgency
#WorldBookNight / #ReadingHour

The Reading Agency

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