7 January 2019: The Reading Agency, in partnership with the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL) and Libraries Connected, has been awarded £120,000 from Arts Council England to pursue an external evaluation of the impact of taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge.
The Summer Reading Challenge is one of the country's biggest reading for pleasure programmes, reaching children aged 4-11 years across the socio-economic spectrum. The Challenge offers children and families an enjoyable, free activity in the six-week summer break from school when reading skills and confidence can dip, commonly known as the 'summer slide'.
For many children there is a stagnation or even a reversal in learning progress over the summer
A strong body of evidence is emerging which shows that for many children there is a stagnation or even a reversal in learning progress over the summer, which places disadvantaged pupils even further behind when school starts again. This funding will allow The Reading Agency to evaluate the impact of the Summer Reading Challenge on the summer slide in relation to both reading skills and reading enjoyment.
The study will also explore the role a public library-based reading activity such as the Summer Reading Challenge can have on building wider school and family engagement with reading.
The project will involve an analysis of standardised testing focusing on complex reading comprehension and confidence. The researchers will also conduct interviews with children, teachers and parents and carers to explore children's perceptions of their own enjoyment of reading, reading skills, reading confidence and feelings of wellbeing. Twenty schools across the country will be recruited to take part in the study, with a particular emphasis on some of the most deprived areas of the country, where the research shows that the summer slide is worse.
We want libraries to continue to be places where culture and creativity thrive in local communities
Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, said: "We are delighted with this investment from the Arts Council. We hope that this large-scale piece of independent research will give us and our library partners a strong evidence base to help us develop and advocate for the Summer Reading Challenge for many years to come."
Janene Cox, chair of the Summer Reading Challenge strategy group, said: "Libraries across the United Kingdom welcome this grant from the Arts Council England. It will enable The Reading Agency to conduct an independent and thorough external evaluation of the Summer Reading Challenge which will evidence the strengths and opportunities that this important programme provides and also, hopefully identify areas where we need to focus and improve. Through this robust analysis, libraries and, most importantly, the children who participate will continue to see the benefits of this reading for pleasure programme."
Sue Williamson, Libraries Director for Arts Council England, said: "We want libraries to continue to be places where culture and creativity thrive in local communities and we are happy to support The Reading Agency as they commission research into the impact of the Summer Reading Challenge which will support the future of this invaluable programme."
- The grant to lead the research for this project is worth £65,000. Researchers interested in bidding for this can find out more, and download the tender here.
- Contact Dr Carina Spaulding, Research and Evaluation Manager here.