The number of children taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge fell 4% this year, although percentage of under-4s participating rose 12%.
The challenge, run every year by The Reading Agency, is aimed at getting children to read at least six books from their local library, and this year 755,208 children in England, Wales and Scotland took part, compared to 786,547 last year. The number of children aged four-11 also fell, from 763,821 to 729,793, but participation of under-4s increased 22,726 to 25,415.
Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said: “This year’s figures are slightly lower than last year’s, but at a challenging time for library services this is an impressive result. We are looking forward to working with our library partners in 2017 to ensure that the Summer Reading Challenge continues to be an exciting way to keep children reading, via their local library, over the summer holidays.”
The number of children from England who signed up was 643,280, compared with 39,222 in Wales and 43,486 in Scotland, where the challenge is sponsored by Tesco Bank and called The Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland. Northern Ireland did not participate.
Internationally, the number of participants decreased from 18,100 to 16,580.
The Reading Agency said 43% of the UK-based participants were boys and that 68,040 children joined the library as new members.
Next year the theme of the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge will be ‘Animal Agents’ and the official illustrator will be Tony Ross. Ross, who was the UK’s most successful children’s illustrator in 2015, according to Nielsen BookScan, will create artwork for the challenge featuring ‘clever creatures’.