The number of children in the UK who took part in The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge this year was down 2.8% on last year’s figure.
Some 786,547 UK children took part in the challenge this summer, compared to 809,422 in 2014 and Summer Reading Challenge director Anne Sarrag said the drop was due to one library authority not taking part. “This year there were slight variations in participation across all regions, with some authorities showing increases and others whose figures were slightly down,” she said. “One large authority didn’t take part this year, which brought the overall UK decrease down to 2.8%.” Sarrag added that if the non-participating authority were to be taken out of the equation, the drop in participation was a leaner 1.25%.
The number of children taking part in the scheme has been on the rise in recent years—in 2014 participation was up 3.6% on 2013—apart from a dip in 2012. Looking further afield, the number of children who took part in total (including in Ireland and libraries run overseas by the British Council) was 804,647, 4.2% fewer than the 2014 total of 839,622. However, Irish numbers were hit by the fact that some Irish libraries decided to run their own reading challenge.
This year’s theme was Record Breakers, held in partnership with Guinness World Records, and The Reading Agency hoped to set a new record for the “most pledges received for a reading campaign” by asking children to promise to read at least six books in their local library over the summer. Every time participants read a book, they were given a sticker to put onto a special poster.
Although the number of pledges (almost 80,000) didn’t hit the record-breaking target of 100,000, The Reading Agency said more than 60,000 children joined a local library as a result. There were also more than 18 million children’s loans made over the summer, it added.
Areas of growth included the number of toddlers who took part: 22,726 under-4s participated this year, 55.4% more than in 2014 (14,621). The number of young people who signed up as volunteers for the Summer Reading Challenge also increased, by 15% to 9,366.
Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said she was “thrilled” to see the impact that young volunteers had made. “As well as developing their own skills they have played a great role in sharing their enjoyment of reading and inspiring children to read more. The Summer Reading Challenge has been fantastic again.”
Ciara Eastell, president of the Society of Chief Librarians, added: “Year on year, children get a burst of reading through the Summer Reading Challenge thanks to dedicated library staff and volunteers and the strong work of The Reading Agency. We see this enthusiasm for reading carried throughout the school year, as children and their parents and carers continue to use libraries and borrow books. We are all proud of this important work.”
Next year, the theme of the Summer Reading Challenge will be The Big Friendly Read, organised in collaboration with the Roald Dahl literary estate as part of the Roald Dahl 100 celebrations. The agency will use characters from Dahl’s novels and artwork from illustrator collaborator Quentin Blake, and base the challenge on “invention, mischief and friendship as explored in Dahl’s most famous books”.