Summer Reading Challenge: keeping primary pupils reading: call to action for head teachers
The Summer Reading Challenge can help primary schools avoid the “summer holiday dip” in pupils’ reading motivation and attainment, widen pupils’ reading range and repetoire and boost their desire to read at home, research by the UK Literacy Association (UKLA) shows. So The Reading Agency is calling upon all UK head teachers to champion use of the Summer Reading Challenge in their school.
The Summer Reading Challenge is an immensely popular and successful reading initiative. Now in its twelfth year it reaches 725,000 children aged four to 12 years annually via the UK library network. It is created and run by The Reading Agency, the independent charity working to inspire more people to read more, and is supported by children’s publishers.
Each year the Summer Reading Challenge to children is simple. They’re encouraged to read six or more books of their choice during the summer holidays with collectable incentives and rewards, plus a certificate or medal for every child who completes the Challenge. Children can sign up at their local library and all materials are free.
The UKLA research (see end for full details) looked at the impact of the 2009 Summer Reading Challenge, focusing on a range of aspects of good practice in schools and library services in five different local authorities: Brighton & Hove, Coventry, Manchester, Staffordshire and Wiltshire. As well as stemming the “summer holiday dip” in children's reading achievement, teachers questioned for the research noted the social benefits of involvement with the Challenge, and praised the materials and website resources which it made available.
Other key findings from the research included:
19,000 boys took part in the 2009 Summer Reading Challenge (44% of participants, up from 42% in 2008)
95% of libraries in the UK were involved
47,000 children signed up as new library members
The UKLA research also found that head teachers place a critical role in supporting children’s readiness to engage with the Summer Reading Challenge. Its recommendations to schools included:
Identifying particular groups of children and their families and offer practical support to help them to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge, making personal contacts with parents and encourage siblings, older friends and reading buddies to arrange to accompany younger readers to the library.
Following up and attempting to sustain the gains in commitment and achievement made by children who have participated in the Summer Reading Challenge by continuing to take classes to visit the local library and inviting librarians to school during the year to discuss reading enthusiasms more generally.
Teachers and education professionals wanting more information about the Summer Reading Challenge can contact its director, Anne Sarrag, on email@example.com or they can visit www.readingagency.org.uk/children/summer-reading-challenge
The 2010 Summer Reading Challenge has a space theme. Called Space Hop, it will enable children to boldly go to new worlds, where they can discover the joy of reading and nurture a life-long love affair with reading and books. Space Hop coincides with the 350th anniversary of The Royal Society’s scientific endeavours, and the 2010 BBC Year of Science.
An interactive Space Hop website (www.spacehop.org.uk) is due to launch in May, linking children with top authors and illustrators, and enabling them to talk about their favourite books and to share reading ideas. Space Hop also promotes their local library as a place of wonder for children, where librarians can offer them invaluable advice and guidance to help them on their mission.
Once again this year there are also large print Summer Reading Challenge materials available for visually impaired children, thanks to the support of the RNIB National Library Service. Also available in a variety of languages are special “family leaflets”. These explain, for parents and carers visiting their local library, the benefits for children doing the Challenge. They also suggest ways of supporting children during the Challenge, and provide joint family reading ideas for the summer.
Here’s what some of the teachers who took part in the UKLA research said about pupils who did last year’s Summer Reading Challenge:
“His mum commented on how fantastic the SRC was for H. He really got into it and he has literally learnt to read over the summer.” Teacher, Brighton.
“D was a boy who liked short texts and mainly read comics and magazines. Now he’s walking around school with novels, reading them avidly.” Teacher, Coventry.
- The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more. It is funded by the Arts Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. (www.readingagency.org.uk)
- For more Summer Reading Challenge information, and to download the Summer Reading Challenge 2009 impact research report, please visit:
- Importance of reading for pleasure for children’s life chances: Reading for Change,
- OECD, 2002. This showed that students who were more enthusiastic about and engaged in reading performed better in tests, and that being a frequent reader was more of an advantage, on its own, than wealth or social status.