The Reading Agency has reported 722,731 children took part in public libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge this summer, representing a 2.64% increase on last year’s participation.
Run annually, the challenge 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 the theme was "Space Chase", inspired by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and featuring bespoke artwork from children's illustrator Adam Stower.
Following an 8% fall last year, total participation was up, from 699,076 in 2018 to 722,731 children total this year.
Boys' participation was flat at 45% on the year prior; however it is still over the odds considering research from the National Literary Trust suggesting only one in four boys read outside school every day.
The total figure also includes 37,177 pre-school participants (aged under 4), whose participation in the Mini Challenge with special pre-school materials increased 32% on 2018.
Over 2.5 million library books were read as part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge and 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 and almost 10,000 volunteers helped the Reading Agency support the Challenge in 2019.
Next year the theme of the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge will 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.
Karen Napier, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said: “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.”