Capita was proud to be invited to the launch of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge at the House of Commons, which this year has the theme ‘Circus Stars’.
The Summer Reading Challenge which is run by independent charity The Reading Agency, along with libraries across the UK, is the biggest and most successful reading promotion for 4-11 year olds, encouraging all children who take part to read at least 6 books over the summer holiday.
The event was bustling with some of the nation’s best loved authors, along with MPs, councillors, publishing industry figures, librarians and library campaigners.
As Miranda McKearney, Director of the Reading Agency explained, this year’s challenge will be the biggest ever, with 97% of local authorities and 3000 young volunteers taking part. Miranda made the point that libraries are in the serious business of making reading fun and the sad fact is that only 40% of children enjoy reading. Research carried out by the UK Literacy Association shows that participating in the Summer Reading Challenge combats the ‘summer holiday dip’ in pupils’ reading motivation and attainment, and boosts their desire to read at home.
Greta Paterson, Head of Children and Young People Services at East Sussex County Council, told me “It’s a fantastic way to connect with young readers, it gets library staff into schools and we see children in the library that we perhaps wouldn’t see otherwise.” The enthusiasm and energy of the people that are directly involved with making the Summer Reading Challenge a success was apparent, as was the mood of optimism and determination despite the tough financial times some library services are facing at the moment.
Voicing his support for the event, Nick Gibb, Minister for Schools described the Challenge as a “pivotal part of the educational reform” that the government is undertaking and revealed that 1 in 5 eleven year olds currently leave primary school without being able to read. He pledged that every child should be able to read by the age of six, a goal which the government has started to work towards.
A highlight of the event was a few words from acclaimed children’s author and Patron of the Summer Reading Challenge, Michael Rosen. He talked enthusiastically about the value of libraries, which he described as “a treasure trove of the world’s wisdom, there for free”. He also stressed the importance of what he termed “book learning”, even in (or especially in) this age of the internet.
And if the future success of the Summer Reading Challenge wasn’t already in the bag, Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad, announced that The Reading Agency have been selected to be part of the London 2012 Festival. The Reading Agency will be working with libraries all over the UK to stage a huge reading extravaganza and to, as Ruth put it, sprinkle some “Olympic magic dust in every library”. Sounds good to us.