The Summer Reading Challenge encourages 722,731 children to read this summer

  • 722,731 children took part in Space Chase in libraries across the UK, and in 21 countries internationally
  • This includes 37,177 pre-school participants – a 32% increase on 2018
  • 45% of participants were boys despite research suggesting that boys engage less with reading
  • Over 2.5 million library books were read as part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge
  • A total of 94,258 children joined the library for the first time in order to take part in the Challenge: an increase of 13% on 2018
  • 95% of library authorities across England, Scotland and Wales took part in the Challenge
  • Almost 10,000 volunteers helped us support the Challenge in 2019
  • 2020 Challenge ‘Silly Squad’ will celebrate funny books and feature bespoke artwork from award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Laura Ellen Anderson

The Reading Agency and public libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge has been instilling a love of books in children for over twenty years. This year’s theme, Space Chase, was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and featured bespoke artwork from top children’s illustrator, Adam Stower. A total of 722,731 children took part across the UK and in 21 countries overseas through a partnership with the British Council; a 2.64% increase on last year’s participation.

95% of library authorities across England, Scotland and Wales took part this summer. This year the scheme engaged more children in reading than the year before, according to data released by The Reading Agency and Libraries Connected. Children taking part read a combined total of more than 2.5 million library books through the school holidays.

The Challenge has been designed to tackle the ‘summer slide’ that sees disadvantaged students taking up to six weeks to re-learn skills in the following school year where their more advantaged counterparts maintain or improve on literacy and numeracy. Research suggests that reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background. Through the Challenge we’re able to tackle the ‘summer slide’ and ensure that children are equipped with the skills to read their way to a better life.

“I’ve struggled for a long time to encourage my daughter to read and enjoy reading, she is a bit behind because of a hearing issue. The Summer Reading Challenge was a huge incentive which boosted her confidence and now she’s happy to read and is enjoying books. Just perfect.” Parent of an 8-9-year-old girl, Shropshire.

Research shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who often read for pleasure show a tendency to score more highly on tests than their more advantaged counterparts who do not read at all. Only 1 in 4 boys read outside of school every day, but this year’s participant report shows that 45% of Space Chase participants were boys.

“The Summer Reading Challenge inspired my 6-year-old not only to improve his reading skills by two stages, but also to extend his playing ideas. Looking to forward next summer!” Parent of a 6-year-old boy, Bedford.

This year’s overall figure includes 37,177 children under 4 taking part with special pre-school materials – an increase of 32% on last year. The Mini Challenge enables younger children to take part alongside older siblings and provides a family-friendly introduction to the local library. Reading as a family is a key way to help foster a love of reading in children and the Mini Challenge helps parents and carers build confidence to share stories and read aloud with their children.

Next year, the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge, Silly Squad, will be a celebration of funny books, happiness and laughter. The story will be set in a fun house and will feature a team of mad-cap animals who love to make people laugh. But be warned: a mysterious baddy is hoping to ruin their fun!

The Reading Agency is delighted to reveal that award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Laura Ellen Anderson, will be creating bespoke artwork for the 2020 Challenge. Laura is the creator of the Evil Emperor Penguin comic series, and picture books including I Don’t Want Curly Hair and I Don’t Want to be Small. The best-selling AMELIA FANG is Laura’s first fiction series as author-illustrator. The series has sold over 150k copies in the UK and is translated into over 20 languages worldwide. Laura has also illustrated Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder, the Harper series by Cerrie Burnell and covers for Terry Pratchett’s books and Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five.


Illustrations © Laura Ellen Anderson 2019

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, says: “I am delighted by the results of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. The programme delivered in partnership with public libraries helps us realise our mission of tacking life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading and opens up opportunities where everyone has access to reading their way to a better life. We know that reading for pleasure is vital for a child’s educational success, and the Challenge has helped give over 13 million children the tools to enable them to better navigate their growing-up years.”

Mark Freeman, President of Libraries Connected, says: “The Summer Reading Challenge has a powerful impact on children and their families, not only supporting children’s literacy and language skills but also ensuring they can enjoy positive fun activity in libraries during the long summer break. Libraries Connected are delighted to support The Reading Agency on the development of the Challenge each year and we are thrilled that almost 100,000 children joined their local library for the first time to take part.”

Laura Ellen Anderson, illustrator for Silly Squad, Summer Reading Challenge 2020, says: “I am incredibly honoured to be the illustrator for the 2020 Challenge. As a kid I loved going to my local library and I can still remember the Challenge in its very early days. So, to now be a part of such a wonderful scheme years down the line, I couldn’t be more excited to encourage lots of kids to read and visit their local libraries. It has been such a treat illustrating the Silly Squad characters and visualising all the funny things they get up to. The fact that the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge is a celebration of funny books is fantastic news and I, for one, am delighted to see funny books getting the recognition they deserve. They enlighten the soul and can introduce kids to the world of reading in a fun and accessible way.”

Get involved

Find out about the Winter Mini Challenge, which gets children into libraries during the long winter holiday.

Use the Summer Reading Challenge Book Sorter to help your child find their next read.

The Reading Agency

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