Summer Reading scheme "critical" for children's literacy

Summer Reading scheme "critical" for children's literacy

The Reading Agency director Miranda McKearney has called for the annual Summer Reading Challenge, which launches its 2011 run today (18th July), to be on every head teacher's school improvement plan.

Citing a 2009 study by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, McKearney said it it was a "national disgrace" that only 40% of England's children enjoy reading. She said: "Public libraries' ability to make reading fun isn't just a luxury we can no longer afford, it is critical work. The Summer Reading Challenge has now become so widespread that it can act as a pivot for schools and libraries to develop joint strategies to promote literacy. We are calling for every head teacher to weave it into the school improvement plan and to ensure every primary school is a member of their local library." Class visits to the library should happen throughout the year, and every family should know the library is a free resource, McKearney added. 

Author Michael Rosen, a patron of the Summer Reading Challenge, said he wanted to see library cards issued to every child going to school. He said: "What sensible objection can there be? I see the lovely circus theme [of this year's Summer Reading Challenge] up in the library and I know half the kids in my local school won't know it's for them because they don't have a ticket."

The Summer Reading Challenge encourages schoolchildren to read six books a year during the summer holidays, a time when literacy levels usually take a dip. Ninety-seven per cent of UK library authorities are involved in this year's event, more than ever before, and last year a total of 760,000 children took part. However, McKearney has warned fragmentation of the library service into differently run models will present problems for the scheme from 2012.

This year's challenge is formally launched at the House of Commons this afternoon, with schools minister Nick Gibbs and patron Michael Rosen among the speakers. Rosen added a sideswipe at the government's position on library closures. He said: "[Culture minister] Ed Vaizey and [culture secretary] Jeremy Hunt are pretending it's not them closing libraries, it's local authorities. That's just passing the buck, that's silly. If you bring in an austerity budget, don't pretend it doesn't have consequences."