Reading Agency aims to maintain summer challenge numbers

Reading Agency aims to maintain summer challenge numbers

The Reading Agency is hoping to maintain participant numbers in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, the theme of which is The Beano.

Last year 760,000 children across the UK took part and nearly 87,000 of those joined the library for the first time. The libraries pay to take part but the costs, once broken down, only amount to around £1 per child.

“We are still finalising orders [from libraries for the challenge promotional packs] but they seem to be similar to what they were last year, and sales in Scotland and Wales are actually slightly up,” Anne Sarrag, head of children’s reading at The Reading Agency, told The Bookseller.

Nearly all of the libraries in the UK (98%) are taking part, along with eight literacy centres worldwide, including places in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

One library in York is fundraising to pay for the challenge and, although Sarrag hasn’t heard of it happening before, she said: “As we move into a world of tighter budgets crowdfunding is something that may become more normal.”

The plan to work with The Beano came about after the comic approached the agency to celebrate Beano’s 80th anniversary. Inspired by Beano’s characters, the ‘Mischief Makers’ challenge will invite children to read books and mark their progress on a Beanotown map.

Several Beano novels are on the list of suggested books and the comic is publishing a special story about the challenge on 14th July.

“We could see a really good fit with the Beano,” said Sarrag. “We knew boys would warm to that theme, as well as girls, and partnering with a comic validates different a kind of reading, one that incorporates pictures as well as words. Also the Beano messaging has been brought into the 21st century so the characters are more diverse, and they have fun but there is no teasing. Dennis the Menace is just Dennis now.”

This year the agency is undertaking a review of the challenge, as they do every four years, and Sarrag said the focus was on “future-proofing the challenge as authorities look at ways of sustaining library services in time of austerity”.

The review, published in the summer, will recommend ways of ensuring future growth and sustainability, increase its impact and secure new partnerships and investment.