Photo of children wearing school uniform, sat at a table looking at an e-reader. There is an adult teacher behind them.

What is the Teachers’ Reading Challenge?

The Teachers’ Reading Challenge is an opportunity for school and library staff to expand their knowledge of contemporary children’s books and develop their skills in teaching children to read for pleasure.  

Run by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Open University, the Challenge invites participants to join a supportive and inspired community of educators and readers, set their own reading goals, share recommendations, discuss best practice, access resources, and record their knowledge.  

Who is it for?

The Challenge is designed for every professional who contributes to a child’s reading journey, from the teacher who makes time for classroom reading, to the librarian who recommends a child their first book, to the student teachers on their way to becoming the reading advocates of the future. The 2024 Teachers’ Reading Challenge will launch in early summer.  

Sign up to take part and receive exciting newsletter updates at 

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“Reading for pleasure is a globally recognised indicator in a huge range of social issues from poverty to mental health, yet in England alone, 36% of people don’t regularly read.” (DCMS, 2015)

Reading for pleasure enhances empathy and the ability to understand others’ identities

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Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education 


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Teachers’ Reading Challenge Website Launches

The initiative is the first teachers’ reading challenge of its kind, utilising research and resources from the OU’s Reading for Pleasure programme and The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge.

Browse the latest news and insights from our Teachers’ Reading Challenge.

Teachers Reading Challenge 2022: living and breathing reading in South Ayshire

Photo of three children reading a book. The middle child is wearing school uniform.

In January 2023, The Reading Agency spoke to Ashley G., a primary teacher working with P6/7 pupils in South Ayrshire about her experience of taking part in the Teachers’ Reading Challenge. Ashley G. took part in both 2021 and 2022, reading well over the number of books she had set herself to read and gaining two silver badges in both years of the Challenge. We spoke to Ashley about how she translated her own love of reading into pedagogical practice, expanded her knowledge of children’s and young people’s texts and embedded reading for pleasure across her whole school as a result of taking part in the Challenge.

Although always having been an avid reader, Ashley explained that translating this into her own work with children only truly became a priority following her discovery of the Teachers’ Reading Challenge.

‘This has been a game changer for me as a teacher. This led me to research Reading for Pleasure, book training sessions on it and complete the Open University badged course. All of this sparked something in me and I’ve spent the last year working on initiatives in school to promote a Reading for Pleasure culture and reading a ridiculous number of children’s books!’

Since first taking part in 2021, Ashley has embedded a variety of initiatives in her school aimed at engaging children in reading for pleasure. These include taking the children to the mobile library every month (when it is scheduled to visit the village) and liaising with South Ayrshire Library Services to provide every child with a mobile library ticket and access to ebooks and audiobooks through the Libby app (online library service).

‘The children can access Libby at school and at home and it is now a well-used and well-loved resource. Access to Libby has also helped to tackle barriers to reading for some of our pupils who were experiencing difficulty reading books at their interest level and were being put off reading by this. Furthermore, for pupils where they don’t have access to a lot of books at home (as long as they have access to a technological device at home eg. phone, tablet, laptop) this free app provides an opportunity for them to read or listen to a wide selection of modern children’s books at home without cost implications for parents which is so important. Money should never be a barrier to children’s reading, and I feel this is even more important currently given the cost-of-living crisis we are all experiencing.’

Another initiative is running a Reading for Pleasure session for the whole school every Friday afternoon, where students can read in a quiet room or participate in shared reading and book talk with their peers. The school has also hosted family ‘Booknic’ events inviting parents, carers and other family members into the school to read together, building an awareness amongst children and young people of reading as something that everyone can take part in and enjoy, both at home, at school and elsewhere.

‘Engaging the children in school has been going well as it’s a small school and because they get the enthusiasm from staff they are all responding well, even children who are reluctant readers.  Engaging families can be more difficult as we appreciate time demands on parents can make it difficult for them to find time to read with their children.  We invited them in for a Booknic back in October which was well attended and received positive feedback from parents and we ran one again the week of World Book Day.  In our infant class we have just started sending home a RfP [Reading for Pleasure] bookbag for the weekend with a little hot chocolate and mini marshmallow pack and requesting a little photo uploaded to Seesaw with potentially a little review of the book/books or their child’s thoughts on it and we will monitor engagement of this. (…)  Next step I’d like to explore inviting parents to come when the mobile library is at the school to choose a book with their child.’

By expanding her knowledge and reading more of the recently published and trending literature that pupils were interested in themselves, Ashley was better able to engage in book talk and was more confident in recommending texts to pupils. As part of a broader approach to diversifying both hers and others’ knowledge of children’s and young people’s texts, Ashley has also started an Open University Teachers’ Reading Group in South Ayrshire, got the school involved in a Diversifying Reading project with Oxford University Press and joined a Racial Literacy Working Group.

‘I adored reading as a child and when I had my own children I wanted them to have that same love of reading but as they grew older and we moved on to reading chapter books I would choose books I had enjoyed reading at their age and came to realise they just weren’t enjoying them as much as I had. So I knew I had to do some research to ensure they maintained their love of reading. That was why when I saw the Teachers’ Summer Reading Challenge I signed up straight away. I also joined Twitter and started following accounts suggested for children’s literature (which I would highly recommend), visited libraries and charity shops and sourced different types of books from different authors and with a variety of characters.(…) I now feel really confident recommending books to pupils throughout the school and they often read the same ones I have and we chat about them. Class novel choices have also been improved due to my knowledge of current authors and the children have really engaged in the books they’ve chosen from my selection.’

When asked about the best new title she had discovered as part of the Challenge and why it resonated, Ashley selected two texts with main characters that reflected different life experiences, pointing to the importance of representation within children and young people’s literature.

‘Amari and the Night Brothers’ because it’s an exciting, fantasy adventure book where the main character is a black girl. So often in this genre the girl is a side character, but instead here was a great female main character which was so refreshing. Also, although it’s a small village school I work in we have a very diverse pupil group and I loved the fact this book included a wide variety of characters with good representation of other ethnicities. This book and its sequel ‘Amari and the Great Game’ have been so popular in my class and we’re now eagerly awaiting the third book which is due to be published in September this year.’

‘Another was Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe, as the main character had eczema. I would have loved to have read a book that featured a character with eczema when I was growing up as I suffered quite badly with eczema myself. Most of the years I was in primary school I was admitted to hospital for a week or so to get it back under control.  So I feel this book would have been comforting for my younger self to have read, and it would have been helpful for educating other children on eczema. I always felt really aware of how my skin looked to others at school and (like in the book) some children were nasty about it.’

Ashley also told us about how the Teachers’ Reading Challenge had informed her work with pupils with different reading levels, providing her with the confidence and the resources through which to engage more reluctant readers.

‘One pupil told me that I wouldn’t be able to find books they would enjoy, but I managed eventually. The first I found that he enjoyed was ‘The Humiliations of Welton Blake’ by Alex Wheatle and that then gave me an idea of the types of books he was likely to enjoy. I researched websites for recommendations ‘if you liked this book/author you might enjoy…’ and I took to Twitter asking for recommendations from others too. Eventually I came across Anthony McGowan’s ‘The Truth of Things’ (which includes three novellas). I ordered my own copy, read it and gave him my copy. The student has now read all three novellas, followed it up with the fourth instalment ‘Lark’ and has recommended them to another student in my class who has now also read all three novellas and is currently reading ‘Lark’. I have now sourced similar novels by a different author for them to try to ensure I maintain their current level of enthusiasm.’

‘Other more reluctant readers have really enjoyed the ‘Dog Man’ series and ‘The Bad Guys’ series we recently purchased for our school library. One pupil in particular has really engaged with graphic novels and has read every book we have in these series and researched to find out if there were any more she hasn’t read yet for us to purchase. She has also enjoyed the ‘Smile, Sisters and Guts’ set by Raina Telgemeier and is currently enjoying ‘When Stars are Scattered’ by Victoria Jamieson (on my recommendation). She now feels so passionate about reading she takes books out to the playground, constantly requests more daily reading time and has shared her book recommendations in whole school assemblies (at her request!).’

For other professionals working in the education and literacy sectors who might be feeling uninspired, Ashley recommended reading up on new and relevant texts through Twitter, signing up for The Open University’s newsletter (which often details relevant free training and webinars), joining one of the Open University’s Teachers’ Reading Groups (TRG), joining the Teachers’ Summer Reading Challenge and reading and logging as many books as possible. Ultimately though, Ashley explained that engaging children in reading hinged on being a reading role model herself – translating her love of reading into the classroom:

‘By expanding your knowledge of children and young people’s literature you’ll gain the confidence to do this (…) It’s really helped my pupils knowing how much I love reading. We’re a small school, with about 70 pupils, and I’ve taught the vast majority of the pupils at this point (…) There are two Mrs G’s at my school and they refer to me as Mrs G. the book teacher! They know I live and breathe reading and many of them are beginning to do so too.’

When asked about future plans, Ashley explained she would be taking part in the Teachers’ Reading Challenge in 2023 and was already exploring ideas for examples of pedagogical practice to submit to The Open University so as to gain her Gold badge.

The Reading Agency and The Open University’s Teachers’ Reading Challenge returns for 2021

After a hugely successful inaugural year in 2020 that saw over 2,400 people take part, The Teachers’ Reading Challenge will return on Saturday 10th July 2021. The Challenge, delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with The Open University, encourages school and library staff to expand their knowledge of children’s books and develop their understanding of reading for pleasure pedagogy. The Challenge is open to anybody who is a Reader Teacher – including all education professionals, public and school library staff, and trainee teachers.

The Challenge aims to expand its reach this year, with Reader Teachers encompassing Primary, Secondary and Special School Teachers, Headteachers/ Acting Headteachers/ Deputy Headteachers, School and Public Librarians, English Consultants, Learning Support Assistants (LSA)/ Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA), Curriculum Leaders, Student Teachers, University lecturers working with schools and teachers, Heads of Pastoral Care, Language Teachers, and any other adults working in educational roles with children and young people.

The Teachers’ Reading Challenge aims to increase reading for pleasure habits amongst children and young people. It will run alongside The Reading Agency’s hugely popular Summer Reading Challenge, encouraging teaching staff and librarians to take the Challenge alongside the children. It invites participants to sign up to the digital platform and join a supportive and inspired community of educators and readers to set their summer reading goals, share reviews and recommendations, access resources and their learnings by submitting an example of practice. The latest Childwise report revealed that 1 in 4 5-16-year-olds don’t read for pleasure – while research by The Open University (Cremin et al. 2014) found that reading aloud, independent reading time, book talk and sharing recommendations in a highly social reading environment can help to positively influence children’s attitudes and attainment. School and library staff play an invaluable role in influencing children’s reading journeys, and the Teachers’ Reading Challenge provides the tools, resources, and forum for them to develop and apply their understanding of Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.

The newly updated digital platform will include brand new features, such as: A Top 100 Books Review page, where participants will be able to access Reading Teachers’ reviews of the most popular books being read in the Challenge, brand new publisher resources on the Find a Read page, including book extracts, discussion guides and teaching notes, plus opportunities to win sets of books for classes or library users, an updated message board to build Teacher Reader communities, and a refreshed poster, diary and certificate for Reader Teachers to track their reading and celebrate completion. The platform also includes access to the Summer Reading Challenge Book Sorter – all books in the Book Sorter have been added by children who have taken part in the Summer Reading Challenge over the past 8 years, with over 1.3 million books read and logged.

In an effort to reach more children in secondary schools, the 2021 Teachers’ Reading Challenge will also include more resources suitable for children at KS3 and KS4, plus weekly booklists for both younger and older readers. YA titles and books that might also be read by adult readers can now be logged and reviewed, meaning more recommendations for those working with older readers.

The Teachers’ Reading Challenge is also being supported by Sora, the student reading app from OverDrive Education, and Pearson. Pearson will be partnering with The Reading Agency on the Share a Read campaign, asking teachers, parents and young people to share what they are reading this summer – these suggestions will be compiled to create book lists to support the nation’s summer of reading.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said:

“We’re delighted to be launching our second Teachers’ Reading Challenge in partnership with The Open University. Last year’s Challenge showed there is a real appetite in the teaching and library community for a platform to exchange recommendations and provide a fun, collaborative support network. We’re looking forward to welcoming even more Reader Teachers this year, with help from our wonderful partners, sponsors and funders – as well as reaching more secondary age children and young people via the Share A Read campaign.”

The Open University said:

“Teachers’ knowledge of children’s texts is the cornerstone of developing reading for pleasure in schools. Our research indicates it is a key professional responsibility, which, when combined with tailored pedagogy, effectively supports young readers. Our pilot Teachers Reading Challenge in 2020 surpassed all expectations, so our hopes are high for 2021!”

Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Dame Lynne Brindley said:

“The Goldsmiths’ Company is proud to help improve lives through this exciting educational programme which aims to support teachers and schoolchildren alike. Building on the success of last year’s Summer Reading Challenge, aimed at schoolchildren, The Teachers’ Reading Challenge recognises the importance of sharing the pleasure of reading with children and bringing knowledge of children’s literature into the curriculum for a richer and more interactive learning experience. We hope with more direct involvement from teachers, we can help to increase the long-term benefits for children both at home and in the classroom.”

Katy Lewis, Head of English, Drama and Languages at Pearson said:

“We’re immensely proud to sponsor this year’s Teachers’ Reading Challenge and join forces with The Reading Agency in our Share a Read campaign. We cannot wait to encourage more Reader Teachers to reconnect with the endless, varied pleasures of children’s books, and will be eagerly supporting them to #ShareARead this summer.

“We all know what a crucial part role models play when it comes to shaping young lives for the better. By diving into diverse reads, and sharing the joy of immersive, imaginative books, Teachers’ Reading Challenge participants can authentically communicate to their pupils just how much possibility, fun and wisdom is to be found in children’s literature today.”

To launch the 2021 Teachers’ Reading Challenge, The Reading Agency and The Open University will be hosting a virtual launch event on Tuesday 6 July. People who took part in last year’s Challenge and those who want to find out more will hear from a panel of educators, librarians, academics and authors about the impact of taking part in the Challenge and the importance of children reading for pleasure. Following a turbulent year for both school and library staff, the event will also focus on the theme of ‘reading and recuperation’ and explore the wellbeing benefits of adults reading books for children. Free tickets can be booked via Eventbrite.

Sign up to the Challenge and find out more at

Teachers’ Reading Challenge Website Launches

Initiative created by The Reading Agency in partnership with The Open University

  • This initiative is the first teachers’ reading challenge of its kind, utilising research and resources from the OU’s Reading for Pleasure programme and The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge.
  • Teachers can sign up to take part in the Challenge from 9am on Friday, 14 August.
  • The online platform aims to create a reading community for teachers, supporting them to deepen their knowledge of children’s books and reading.
  • Modelled on the popular Summer Reading Challenge, the Teachers’ Reading Challenge invites teachers to read and review books, promote best practice on supporting reading for pleasure in the classroom and join discussions to share advice and recommendations.

Friday, 14 August, 2020: The Teachers’ Reading Challenge website, created by national charity The Reading Agency in partnership with The Open University, has launched today, encouraging teachers to sign up to the challenge and create a reading for pleasure teachers’ community, to discuss children’s literature and share strategies for developing children’s reading habits.

The initiative aims to help teachers develop their reading repertoire of children’s texts and offers resources and advice on enhancing children’s reading experiences. Teachers who sign up to the Challenge will be invited to access a downloadable reading diary, find book recommendations, save books onto their own wish list, take part in discussions with fellow teachers using the message board, and leave reviews to help other teachers find their next read.

OU research reveals that teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature and other texts is essential for developing a rich reading curriculum, and when combined with the four-fold Reading for Pleasure pedagogy, effectively nurtures the reading habit in young people (Cremin et al, 2014). The RfP pedagogy includes: reading aloud, independent reading time, booktalk and recommendations in a highly social reading environment. Resources available on the Teachers’ Reading Challenge website will include booklists from authors, tips on reading aloud to children, advice on diversifying classroom libraries, and studies and research on the benefits of fostering reading for pleasure habits in children.

As children head back to school and teachers across the country grapple with the effects of the lockdown and social distancing, the initiative will aim to create a supportive hub for teachers, allowing them to access invaluable resources, develop a greater knowledge of their student’s reading habits and find an inclusive, representative range of children’s book recommendations.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency commented: “We’re delighted to launch the Teachers’ Reading Challenge with The Open University. The resources provided by Research-Rich Pedagogies are an invaluable asset, and we hope that the Challenge platform will provide a fun, collaborative support network for teachers across the country; enabling them to explore children’s literacy in depth, exchange advice and recommendations — and enjoy some new books!”

Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy), The Open University commented: “I’m delighted we’re launching this Teachers’ Reading Challenge in partnership with The Reading Agency. The Open University’s research shows that teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature and other texts is a prerequisite to develop rich practice and keen readers. When teachers share their knowledge, passion and pleasure in reading this has powerful consequences – it motivates young readers and helps build the habit of reading.

It is therefore a professional responsibility for teachers to keep up-to-date with books that reflect the realities of young people’s worlds, that foster their curiosity and help them to imagine alternatives. It is also a moral and social responsibility – being a reader changes children’s lives.

So, we need professionals who read children’s texts avidly and deeply, and who, through rigorous planned and reviewed practice, develop reading communities within and beyond school. Such communities of connection and conversation are even more critical now in the Covid-19 context.

The Teachers’ Reading Challenge to widen professional repertoires of knowledge and practice offers a rich way forward for all teachers and student teachers. The pressure on the profession is considerable currently, but by taking the Challenge both teachers and children will benefit and new communities of engaged readers will be built. Bring it on!”

Ashley Bates, teacher, creator of The Shed School platform and Summer Reading Challenge ambassador commented: “Reading and being read to are fantastic ways to expose children to new words and develop their creative imaginations. The Teachers’ Reading Challenge site will provide a really valuable, innovative way for teachers to connect and share advice on encouraging reading habits in children, as well as helping us to understand their reading habits in more depth, and keep up to date with children’s books of choice.”

From 9am on Friday 14 August, you can sign up to the Teachers’ Reading Challenge at:

Join the Teachers’ Reading Challenge!

We’re delighted to share with you that our Teachers’ Reading Challenge website, created in partnership with the Open University, will launch this Friday 14 August at 9am!

The site will run from the 14th August to the 31st October, and you can sign up to join at any time from 9am on Friday – just head to:

This initiative is the first teachers’ reading challenge of its kind, utilising resources from the OU’s Reading for Pleasure programme and The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge. It aims to help teachers develop their reading repertoire of children’s texts and offers resources and advice on enhancing children’s reading experiences. 

The Teachers’ Reading Challenge invites teachers to read and review books, promote best practice on supporting reading for pleasure in the classroom, and join discussions to share advice.

Once signed up, teachers will be invited through their personal profile page to access a downloadable reading diary, find book recommendations, save books onto their own wish list, take part in discussions with fellow teachers using the message board, and leave reviews to help other teachers find their next read. 

They will also have access to the Summer Reading Challenge’s Book Sorter – 1,185,204 million books have been added and reviewed by children for children. An amazing resource for teachers to explore children’s choices.

The Teachers’ Reading Challenge site is aimed at supporting:

  • Primary and Secondary School Teachers
  • LSA (Learning Support Assistants)/ HLTA
  • Curriculum Lead/ Heads of
  • Pastoral Care
  • Headteacher/ Acting Head/ Deputy Head
  • Language Teachers
  • School Librarians

Get Involved

From 9am on Friday 14 August, you can sign up to the Teachers’ Reading Challenge at:

The Open University collaborates with The Reading Agency on Teachers’ Reading Challenge

Following on from last week’s Reading Together Day, The Open University’s Reading for Pleasure programme has partnered with The Reading Agency to launch a Teachers’ Reading Challenge.

Due to launch on 14 August, the initiative aims to create a community for teachers to share their thoughts and recommendations on children’s literature.

Similar to The Reading Agency’s popular Summer Reading Challenge, which is run annually to motivate more children to read during the break from school, the Teachers’ Reading Challenge invites teachers to read and comment on up to six children’s books on a dedicated Teachers’ Reading Challenge website. The hope is that the site will become a hub for teachers to deepen knowledge of children’s literature, access resources and share recommendations and advice on encouraging their students to read more.

Academic lead of the OU’s Reading for Pleasure programme, Professor Teresa Cremin said: “OU research shows that teacher’s knowledge of children’s literature is the cornerstone of effective reading for pleasure practise in school (Cremin et al., 2014). The Teachers Reading Challenge offers a practical and engaging way for teachers and student teachers to widen their repertoires, rekindle their pleasure in reading and share their passion with children.”

CEO of The Reading Agency, Karen Napier commented: “We’re thrilled to be teaming up with The Open University to present the Teachers’ Reading Challenge. Every year, teachers across the country support the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge and help their students discover the joy of reading – and we’re delighted that we can now offer them a dedicated platform to engage with the wider teaching community and delve into the world of children’s literacy.”

Get involved

Further information on the Teacher’s Reading Challenge will be announced in the following weeks on our website and on the OU’s Reading for Pleasure website.

You can also stay up to date on developments by signing up to the teacher’s mailing list on the Summer Reading Challenge School Zone

Artwork by Chris Riddell.

The Reading Agency

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