McAnulty and Backshall ambassadors for Summer Reading Challenge

McAnulty and Backshall ambassadors for Summer Reading Challenge

Teenage naturalist and author Dara McAnulty will be joining explorer and presenter Steve Backshall as an ambassador for this year's Summer Reading Challenge, organised by the Reading Agency.

The 2021 challenge is in partnership with the WWF charity and will be focused on the theme "wild world heroes", inspiring children to explore ways of helping save the planet and looking at environmental issues from plastic pollution to deforestation. The annual challenge reaches more than 700,000 children across the UK and works with public libraries to encourage reading during the summer holidays for those aged four to 11.

This year's challenge launches in Scotland and Northern Ireland on 19th June and on 10th July in England and Wales. It is hoped one million children could be reached this year with a new digital platform. Children will be provided with free packs from public libraries or online, and invited to join six fictional "wild heroes" characters to help solve environmental threats, learning about the importance of the environment while helping to restore nature levels in the neighbourhood of "Wilderville". The characters and landscape are illustrated by Heath McKenzie.

WWF will be running school seminars and live lessons, with further details to be confirmed over June and July. Sky VIP will also be offering thousands of customers the chance to win a copy of Shark Seas (Hachette Children's) by Backshall. Customers will be invited to start their Summer Reading Challenge journey with the book at participating libraries nationwide. The challenge is also being supported by Pearson, sponsoring the digital platform’s School Zone, and Overdrive Education, sponsoring the digital platform’s Home Zone.

McAnulty said: “I am so excited to be championing the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge, to encourage children to enjoy the benefits of reading for pleasure over the summer holidays. I'm 17 years old now — but not so long ago, the Summer Reading Challenge was something myself and my siblings completed every summer. It's such a joy to now be an ambassador and encourage other children to take part in this wonderful scheme.

"I’m delighted that the Reading Agency is teaming up with WWF for this year’s very special nature-themed ‘wild world heroes’, to help children explore ways of helping our magnificent earth. The challenge feels more vital than ever after such a challenging year for school children, so it is brilliant to see the fun and engaging reading activities that everyone can get involved with, in libraries and online — inspiring them to help make a difference to nature. I look forward to celebrating two of my favourite things this summer… reading and helping the planet!”

Karen Napier, c.e.o. of the Reading Agency, commented: "We hope that this year, more children than ever will feel inspired and encouraged to sign up to the challenge. After a difficult year for many, we are immensely grateful for the continued and longstanding support of public libraries, and we’re looking forward to working closely with them to help get children reading, alongside our brilliant partners and sponsors.”