James, 9, from Congelton in Cheshire, had never really been a reader; he was a typical boy who would rather play football. But in 2013 he heard about the Summer Reading Challenge at school. His mum, Katie, took him to the local library to sign up and a librarian's book recommendation got him excited about reading.
Match magazine versus Wildlife SOS
Katie said: "James would read Match magazine, but he needed something to really inspire him and catch his reading interest. I would find it difficult to find books suitable for eight to eleven year olds - he had grown out of books for younger children and I didn't want to scare him off with too big a text."
On the day he signed up for the Challenge the librarian in Congleton chatted to James and asked what he was interested in. When he told her about his interest in animals the librarian suggested the Wildlife SOS series. Although he wasn't impressed with the cover, as soon as he started reading about the characters' adventures finding and helping the animals, he was hooked.
Katie said: "More and more I found that he was picking up a book to read; he wanted to find out what happened next in each story. For the first time ever, he was sitting and reading on his own, which is just what you want to see in your child, and not just over the school holidays. Before, it had been me turning everything off and saying Let's read'."
A lasting effect
James' enthusiasm for reading was ignited by taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge, but it's continued now that James is back at school. "Now, once James has finished a book he'll tell me all about the story, so I know he has read it from start to finish! He is really enthusiastic and he has read the whole Wildlife SOS series - he was really disappointed that there weren't more as it really caught his interest, but we've been back to the library to find another series of books that he can get into."
Katie is very grateful to the the children's librarian at Congleton for listening to James' interests and recommending something appropriate not only for his interests but also for his reading age. She says: "When you're trying to pick out books, often you only know the names of the most popular or 'mainstream' authors. Also, when getting books from your local library, you aren't having to pay for them whilst you experiment with what your child does or doesn't like! I think libraries are so important for communities."
A message to parents
Katie's message to parents with reluctant readers is to persevere with things like the Summer Reading Challenge. She said: "It really helps that they can pick their own books to read, and keep trying different ones until they find something they like. Once they get started, they will want to get the medal and certificate at the end; it keeps them reading over the summer holidays. Getting children into reading is so important; you can't do anything without reading - and for when they are writing stories of their own, it really helps fire their imagination."
If your child gained from taking part in the 2013 Summer Reading Challenge like James did, please consider donating to our campaign and help us reach more children in 2014. It only costs £3 for three disadvantaged children to take part in the Challenge for free. Please donate £3 to our campaign by texting READ06 £3 to 70070 or by visiting justgiving.com/SummerReadingChallenge.
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The Summer Reading Challenge website for children is live all year round with competitions, activities, the book sorter and an author of the month feature.