New Summer Reading Challenge Model sees dramatic increases in children’s library membership

Our new report summarises findings from the second year of the cross-authority pilot model of the Summer Reading Challenge. Run by The Reading Agency and delivered by public libraries, the Summer Reading Challenge aims to address the summer reading dip by encouraging 4-11-year-olds to read over the holidays.

In 2021 and 2022, we piloted a new model involving partnerships between libraries and other local authority teams, including education and public health. The goal was to extend the reach and impact of the Challenge for children living with disadvantage and those likelier to experience setbacks with their reading. The new evaluation report by Renaisi, supported with funding from Arts Council England, looked at results from 30 pilot areas in 2022 to identify effective approaches.

Key findings show:

The cross-authority model increased participation and engagement with the library service across pilot areas, and was effective in reaching pupils living with disadvantage as well as those who had not taken part in the Summer Reading Challenge in the past.

  • Over 212,000 children took part across pilot sites – a 29% increase from 2021 and an 11% increase from 2019 (pre-pandemic)
  • The proportion of boys participating in pilot sites was higher than in 2021 and 2019
  • Nearly 47,000 children became new library members – a 94% increase from 2019
  • The average number of new library members per pilot site (1,552) was three times the average across non-pilot areas (486)
  • Children read more books, felt more confident reading and enjoyed reading more, reflecting 2021 evaluation findings of statistically significant changes for children who took part in the Challenge compared with those who did not take part
  • 68% of surveyed schools agreed that the Challenge reached pupils living with disadvantage and 60% agreed that the Challenge had engaged pupils who had not taken part in the past

The report found that common barriers to reading engagement included parents’ own confidence with reading or a lack of awareness of local library services.

Through targeted outreach through schools and holiday programs, the Summer Reading Challenge successfully engaged disadvantaged groups, and pilot areas that were able to give all children automatic library membership increased uptake by bringing families into libraries. Partnerships formed between libraries and holiday activity providers also enabled access to the Challenge in wider familiar settings.

Some recommendations which came from the report for those delivering the Summer Reading Challenge included building on existing relationships and having strong data sharing agreements in place. The evidence also shows that helping libraries to share best practice and providing tailored resources also boosted delivery and uptake.

This strong evidence behind the cross-authority model in engaging children living with disadvantage will help us to shape plans from 2024 onwards as we focus on a wider rollout. We’re delighted that this pilot demonstrates how cross-sector collaboration and innovative approaches can promote reading and literacy.

Find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge here.

Share your reading group story

What impact does being in a reading group or book club have on you? Does it make you read more, or try different types of books? At The Reading Agency, we want to encourage reading groups to become active members of our reading community.

We want to hear from you! Share your reading group story with us by 28 August and you’ll be entered to win a prize of £100 of National Book Tokens for your reading group.

We also want to hear about your experiences of using Reading Groups for Everyone. If there’s something that you’d like to see from us, or if you’ve taken part in a Read & Review offer from the noticeboard, this is your opportunity to share your thoughts with us so that we can continue to provide the best support, resources and opportunity for your group.

Fill in a short survey to share your responses and be entered into the prize draw.

National Reading Group Day 2023

Save the date! On Thursday 14 September we’ll be celebrating National Reading Group Day.

Here at The Reading Agency, we love reading groups and all the brilliant things they give us; regular connections with others, the opportunity to discover new books and authors, and discussions that can go on long into the night.

We want you to join us in celebrating on 14 September with your reading group:

  • Run a Big Book Club Quiz: from 14 September, your group can enter an online quiz to show off your bookish knowledge. You’ll have a month to complete the quiz, so it’s the perfect activity for your monthly meeting. Submit your answers by 14 October and you’ll be entered to win book tokens to buy books for your group. Watch this space to enter the quiz
  • Share the books that you’ve loved over the past year on social media tagging @reading_groups and #NationalReadingGroupDay
  • Check out the noticeboard for upcoming Read & Review offers from our publisher partners and booklists to find your next read
  • Libraries can download an activity toolkit with ideas on how to celebrate with your groups
The Reading Agency

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