New survey from The Reading Agency reveals children’s top reading choices and who influences them

A survey commissioned by The Reading Agency (conducted by Beano Brain Omnibus 2020) to mark the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge 2020 reveals that 89% of 7-11-year-olds surveyed have been reading during lockdown, with 37% of them reading more than before schools closed. The majority of children have been looking to digital influencers for reading inspiration, with 45% of children turning to YouTube and 28% to social media for ideas – and almost one third (31%) turning to friends for advice.

Reading was cited as something that made children feel relaxed and happy during lockdown, with a quarter (26%) saying characters in books have made them laugh during this difficult time. Chapter books have proved the most popular reads, chosen by 3 in 5 children (61%), with 40% of children opting to read comics. 57% of boys and 65% of girls chose chapter books, and 49% of boys and 30% of girls read comics.

The Summer Reading Challenge, delivered in partnership with public libraries, encourages children aged 4-11 to read during the long summer break, with research showing a dip in reading levels if children do not have regular access to books.

This year, the Challenge’s ‘Silly Squad’ theme places an emphasis on funny books, encouraging children to read whatever makes them happy, whether that’s a book, a comic, a silly poem or a funny joke book — in digital or print format, from e-book lending through the public library service or from what they already have at home. The official Summer Reading Challenge book collection will also act as a guide.

With almost half of the children surveyed (45%) saying they’re most looking forward to seeing their friends after lockdown ends, The Reading Agency’s invitation to ‘Join Our Silly Squad’ could not be more timely. Children taking part in their Challenge are encouraged to form their own virtual Silly Squads and talk about the stories they love, reinforcing social connections and helping to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, which many children have felt during this time of social distancing.

The survey found:

  • 89% of children have been reading in some form during lockdown.
  • 68% of boys and 70% of girls surveyed reported a love of reading
  • The majority of children look to digital influencers for reading inspiration, with 45% of children turning to YouTube and 28% to social media for ideas, and almost one-third (31%) following the advice of friends. Traditional media was also a popular source, with 27% getting ideas from seeing books on TV and 18% from hearing about them on the radio.
  • 3 in 5 children (61%) surveyed chose to read chapter books during lockdown, with comics a close second at 40%.
  • Reading has helped 40% of children relax and made over a third (35%) happy, with almost a fifth (17%) talking to friends about books as a way of staying connected and a quarter (26%) saying characters in books have made them laugh during lockdown.

Cressida Cowell, Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, bestselling author and an ambassador for The Summer Reading Challenge 2020 said:

“I’m delighted to be an ambassador for The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge this year to help spread the Silly Squad message and encourage children to sign up and get involved. I’ve been a huge supporter of the Summer Reading Challenge for many years, because it gives children an opportunity to try something new, guided by experts. It’s when times are hardest that we need the transformative magic of reading the most, and the Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge can really help children have fun even in difficult and anxious times.”

Carol Stump, President of Libraries Connected, who are once again working with The Reading Agency on the Summer Reading Challenge said:

“There’s always time to be silly and to have fun with books. Your public libraries will be supporting this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – Silly Squad – in lots of creative, inventive and silly ways. With this year’s Summer Reading Challenge each library will offer unique opportunities for children and families. This recent survey shows just how important reading is to help children stay positive and keep laughing in challenging times, and although the Challenge might not look the same as in previous years, I know all our wonderful library teams will be working with the Reading Agency to inspire children to read and giggle their way through the summer. Remember, if you can’t get to us or don’t have any books at home we have wonderful e-book and e-audiobook collections full of fantastic reads for children and families.”

Caroline Dinenage, Libraries Minister, said:

“The Summer Reading Challenge is a brilliant opportunity for young people to find their favourite stories, learn more about themselves and their world, and share a love of reading with family and friends.”

With school life disrupted and many children missing the company of their friends, this year’s all-new digital Summer Reading Challenge will be all the more vital as a way of helping parents and carers find fun, family-friendly activities online, maintain literacy levels and create a safe space for children to connect with their peers.

Children can sign up at from today with a fun-filled series of events from Ambassadors running from 4.00 – 7.00pm on The Summer Reading Challenge Facebook page. The star-studded list of ambassadors taking part in the digital launch include CBBC presenters Sam and Mark; former Blue Peter presenter and children’s author Konnie Huq; performance poet Joseph Coelho; comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady; actress Shobna Gulati; comedian and author David Baddiel; TV adventurer Ben Fogle; and CBBC’s Hacker T Dog reunited with Radio 1’s Katie Thistleton.

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

Head to to sign up to the Challenge!

Keep an eye on the Summer Reading Challenge Facebook page throughout the summer to catch even more fantastic videos from our wonderful ambassadors and book collection authors.

The Reading Agency

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