The Reading Agency, Libraries Connected, Arts Council England and ASCEL have confirmed they will not be able to deliver the Summer Reading Challenge in its usual physical format this year. However, they have said a "high-quality digital offer" is in the pipeline.
Run annually, with 722,731 children taking part in 2019, the scheme encourages children to read six books of their choice over the school summer holidays to address the "summer slide" that sees disadvantaged students taking up to six weeks to re-learn skills in the following school year. This year's Summer Reading Challenge theme was going to be "Silly Squad", celebrating funny books, with bespoke artwork from Laura Ellen Anderson, children’s book author and illustrator behind the Amelia Fang series published by Egmont.
The Reading Agency has said the organisations have agreed it will not be possible to deliver the Reading Challenge "in its usual print format throughout public libraries" this summer, in light of "the current situation affecting the delivery of all public services". However, it said, "we remain committed to improving lives through the proven power of reading, and are working hard to fast track a high-quality digital offer which will be available to interested library services and direct to the reader".
It is not known when libraries will be able to reopen following the announcement of their closure on 23rd March as part of a raft of stringent social distancing measures, including also the closure of shops selling "non-essential" goods. The Reading Agency anticipated it was unlikely to be any time soon.
"Never has reading been so important to supporting wellbeing, creativity and learning than at the current time," the statement continued. "While none of us know how long the social distancing policy will be in force for, it is very clear that normal service is not likely to resume in the near future. However long the current situation lasts, The Reading Agency will continue to inspire children to engage with reading in fun and innovative ways, and will do all we can to create new and exciting opportunities with our partners for our audiences."
In the meantime The Reading Agency has created a "toolkit", containing its programmes' digital resources as well as ideas on how to stay connected.