The Reading Agency and HarperCollins working together to keep children reading this summer

Publisher HarperCollins is supporting The Reading Agency‘s drive to reach 1 million children this summer, by providing libraries delivering the Summer Reading Challenge with free and unlimited access to titles by some of their best-selling authors.

The Reading Agency’s charitable mission is to enable everyone to read their way to a better life – irrespective of age or economic background. Reading can tackle life’s big challenges, from social mobility to mental health – and The Reading Agency are determined that no one is left behind.

The Summer Reading Challenge, run by The Reading Agency and delivered nationally in partnership with public libraries, is taking place ‘in person’ again this year as well as via a digital platform. To support the libraries’ digital offering, HarperCollins will be providing them with 35 children’s titles, to loan via their e-book lending schemes for free, with no limit to the number of times the books can be loaned during July and August.

The initiative will offer the opportunity for more children to try reading digitally at a time when restrictions are still in place in many physical spaces, while helping to raise awareness of the various digital offerings available to families from libraries. Authors whose titles feature on the list include: Michael Morpurgo, Derek Landy, Hannah Gold, David Walliams, Sophy Henn, Soman Chainani and David Baddiel, amongst many others, with additional Collins Learning illustrated titles from the Big Cat series by Benjamin Zephaniah, Ellie Simmonds, John Agard, Grace Nichols and Sitoshi Kitamura.

The annual Summer Reading Challenge aims to motivate 4 – 11 year olds to read six (or more) books of their choice during the summer holidays, with collectable incentives and rewards, plus a certificate for every child who completes the Challenge.

This year’s theme is ‘Wild World Heroes’ and was created in partnership with WWF UK to encourage children to learn about nature and take action for the environment.

Fiona Allen, Communications Director, HarperCollins said:

‘We are delighted to be once again supporting the Summer Reading Challenge with free e-books from some of the nation’s most beloved children’s writers. It’s been a tough year for everyone, and with lockdowns affecting access to books it’s hugely important we do everything we can to help kids keep reading. We’re very proud to be working with The Reading Agency to make sure children and families can enjoy reading together throughout the summer.’

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said:

‘We’re thrilled to be working with HarperCollins on this e-book gifting initiative as part of the Wild World Heroes, Summer Reading Challenge. The Reading Agency’s vision is for a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life. This generous donation of e-books by HarperCollins will ensure even more children discover the joy of reading in libraries and online this summer. It’s more important than ever that we work to ensure accessibility for all – and with the support of HarperCollins we are realising this vision.’

Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency

2021 Booker Prize longlist announced

The longlist for the 2021 Booker Prize has been announced. The 13 books on this year’s longlist were chosen by the 2021 judging panel: historian Maya Jasanoff (chair); writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted novelist and professor Chigozie Obioma; and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams.

The list was chosen from 158 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021. The Booker Prize for Fiction is the leading prize for literary fiction written in English and is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The longlist

In collaboration with technology specialist Jellybooks, the longlisted titles are available to explore via a dedicated online 2021 Booker Prize Magazine. Powered by Jellybooks’ new interactive online platform, the magazine enables readers to learn more about each book and read a sample. Read the 2021 Booker Prize Magazine.

What the judges said

Maya Jasanoff, chair of the 2021 judges, says:

‘One thing that unites these books is their power to absorb the reader in an unusual story, and to do so in an artful, distinctive voice. Many of them consider how people grapple with the past – whether personal experiences of grief or dislocation or the historical legacies of enslavement, apartheid, and civil war. Many examine intimate relationships placed under stress, and through them meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or on what makes us human. It’s particularly resonant during the pandemic to note that all of these books have important things to say about the nature of community, from the tiny and secluded to the unmeasurable expanse of cyberspace.

Reading in lockdown fostered a powerful sense of connection with the books, and of shared enterprise among the judges. Though we didn’t always respond in the same ay to an author’s choices, every book on this list sparked long discussions amongst ourselves that led in unexpected and enlightening directions. We are existed to share a list that will appeal to many tastes, and, we hope, generate many more conversations as readers dig in.’

Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, adds:

‘In recent years Booker Prize longlists have drawn attention to various elements of novelty in the novel: experimentalism of form, work in unprecedented genres, debut authors. This year’s list is more notable for the engrossing stories within it, for the geographical range of its points of view and for its recognition of writers who have been working at an exceptionally high standard for many years. Some have already been rewarded with prizes (a Nobel here, a Pulitzer there). Two are debut novelists. Many have fallen within the Booker’s orbit before. To see them brought together, an to hear from them in these books, is to know that literature is in the most capable and creative of hands.’

The shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 14 September and the winner on Wednesday 3 November.

Get involved

Listen to the brilliant Booker Prize podcast with Joe Haddow.

Have you read any of the longlisted books? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Instagram using #FinestFiction and #2021BookePrize, or click on a title above to leave a review.

For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.

Get your ticket for the Stories Festival

The Evening Standard in association with Netflix, has announced that tickets are on sale for its inaugural Stories Festival which will take place at Picturehouse Central on 24-26 September 2021, with three days of inspirational storytelling in the heart of London. The first programme details have also been revealed and celebrate a diverse range of talent, including leading authors, poets, screenwriters, debut novelists and comedians. These storytellers will share their methods and unique approaches to live audiences across this weekend extravaganza. The Reading Agency is thrilled to be the Stories Festival charity partner. Tickets can be purchased at

The festival will include live readings, talks and workshops from the likes of Dr Amir Khan (_The Doctor Will See You Now_), Anita Rani (presenter and author of The Right Sort of Girl), Ashley Walters (Star of Netflix series Top Boy), Candice Brathwaite (Author of I Am Not Your Baby Mother), Daisy Buchanan (author of Insatiable), Ed Balls (Former Shadow Chancellor and author of Appetite: A Memoir in Recipes of Family and Food), Holly Smale (author of Geek Girl), Jack Guinness (model and author of The Queer Bible), Jed Mercurio (Creator of Line of Duty) and Rabina Khan (Lib Dem councillor and author of My Hair is Pink Under This Veil). The Festival will also feature a showcase from Stormzy’s #Merky Books (Penguin Random House).

We’re very excited that at 7pm on 24 September, there’ll be a special Quick Reads event as part of the Festival. Number one international bestseller Kate Mosse and award winning author Alex Wheatle invite you to join them in an intimate conversation hosted by The Reading Agency. The two renowned authors will share their motivations, experiences and discuss how reading has the power to change lives. The Reading Agency is Charity Partner of ES Stories Festival and CEO Karen Napier will welcome guests to this exclusive event. The session will also include an exciting Quick Reads announcement…. hear it here first!

Kate Mosse  2(c) Ruth Crafer.jpeg

Alex Wheatle.jpeg

Emily Sheffield, Editor, Evening Standard: “We at the Evening Standard are excited to be launching this inaugural storytelling festival, a major creative collaboration with partner Netflix that showcases some of the best and brightest young creative talent that our Capital and the UK has to offer.”

Anne Mensah, Vice President of Original Series at Netflix, said: “What an incredible lineup of speakers and guests! I’m thrilled that, together with the Evening Standard, we’ve been able to build a festival programme that explores storytelling in all its many guises. A great story can come from anywhere, so we are incredibly excited to be able to support a forum which brings together the next generation of young emerging talent with established authors and screenwriters.”

The Stories Festival is the ultimate event to support and inspire the next generation of storytellers. From science, health and wellbeing, fiction and crime to poetry and children’s stories, every genre will be fully explored, with more line-up details to be announced. Further information can be found at

The Reading Agency and Health Education England announce a new book collection – Uplifting resources: for the NHS from the NHS

The Reading Agency and Health Education England are proud to launch Uplifting resources: for the NHS from the NHS. Bringing together a crowd-sourced collection of ten books and a supporting list of digital resources, all recommended by NHS staff, for NHS staff, to provide inspiration, give hope and promote wellbeing. The collection will be available in all 184 Health Education England library services from today so NHS staff can easily access the books.

The collection of ten books have been recommended via a survey circulated by the NHS and the final list was selected by a panel of NHS staff. The book collection contains fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and a supporting collection of uplifting digital resources, including poems, websites, videos and apps, is also available here and can be accessed at your leisure via any computer or mobile device.

The book collection is made up of the below titles:

1. Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola
2. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesey
3. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
4. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
5. The Lido by Libby Page
6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
7. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
8. Calypso by David Sedaris
9. The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
10. Happiness FM by Mary Dickins

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said:

“The Reading Agency is delighted to be working with Health Education England on this collection of uplifting books to bring the proven power of reading to NHS staff through their fabulous network of libraries.  This diverse collection of books, by fantastic authors, has been carefully selected by those working for the NHS to provide something uplifting for their colleagues who have worked ceaselessly and inspired us all during the pandemic and beyond.  Whether it’s a novel to lose yourself in, or a short story or poem to momentarily whisk you away from the now, there’s something for everyone in this list, hopefully encouraging us all to take a break with a book this Health Information Week.  With our thanks to all NHS staff across the country, we hope this collection brings a smile to your face.”

Ruth Carlyle, Head of Knowledge and Library Services, Head Education England said:

“NHS knowledge and library services provide access to evidence for care, but they also provide support to NHS staff who want to develop new skills or to improve their own wellbeing. This set of books and digital resources funded by Health Education England adds to the ongoing role played by knowledge and library services within the NHS. We thank all NHS staff for the vital roles that they play and hope that the collection will bring individuals a few uplifting minutes.”

Libby Page, author of The Lido said:

“I’m delighted that The Lido has been included as an uplifting read for inclusion in NHS libraries for staff. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals within the NHS do such a fantastic job and if my book is able to offer them a moment’s pause and respite after a busy and stressful day, that means a lot to me. Mental health is a subject close to my heart and I believe it’s vital that those in caring positions are also supported to take care of themselves; reading can be a welcome distraction and moment of calm. My sister and best friend are both trainee doctors so I’ve seen first-hand how challenging working in healthcare can be – I hope that dipping into The Lido will provide a well-deserved break, as well as touching on subjects like mental health and loneliness that I’m sure NHS staff encounter daily in their jobs. I feel very proud to have my book included on this wonderful list.”

Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency

The Reading Agency

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