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.

The Reading Agency

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