The Summer Reading Challenge inspires thousands of children to explore the world of fiction and discover a love of books

Do you remember as a kid hiding under the covers, reading a good book by the light of a torch when it was several hours past your bedtime? A book can transport a child away from anything troubling them, letting their imaginations run wild while developing their compassion and concentration. Reading has been found to be the most effective way to reduce stress levels – beating listening to music, or even the old favourite, a good cup of tea. Studies have also found that “reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, both in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics.”

Summer Reading Challenge 2017 Adult Reading With Children

The Challenge encourages improved reading skills and confidence, as well as the thrill of reading an incredible book. Photography | Dale Cherry for The Reading Agency

With this in mind, The Reading Agency charity has developed a summer campaign, encouraging kids aged four to 11 to delve into a good book (or six), to make use of their local library, and to uncover clues to solve a mystery. The Summer Reading Challenge runs every year and is open to all children. This year, the charity is expecting 750,000 kids to take up the challenge, which launched on Saturday 15 July.

Chapter 1: What is the Summer Reading Challenge?

In their efforts to pass on the joy of reading to a new generation, every year The Reading Agency partner with libraries across the UK to bring the Summer Reading Challenge to the shelves and bedside tables of three quarters of a million children.

The challenge encourages improved reading skills and confidence, as well as the thrill of reading an incredible book. As part of the challenge, children should read at least six books over their summer holidays – so the sooner they sign up, the more time bookworms have for reading. For each book the child reads, the library will reward them with a sticker. Collecting these stickers is part of the Animal Agents mystery, which turns each child into an expert detective – your own mini Hercule Poirot.

Dermot O’Leary has said: “I love the Summer Reading Challenge because it enables children to transition reading from being an activity you do in the confines of a classroom to something you can do for a bit of fun in your spare time. It instils in kids a real sense of pride in their achievements, and sets them up with a positive relationship with reading that is priceless in the future.”

Summer Reading Challenge 2017 Children with Certificates

Photography | Dale Cherry for The Reading Agency

Chapter 2: How do you get involved?

The Summer Reading Challenge is completely free to enter! Most libraries in the UK will be involved, so head down to your local library and show the place some love. Your child can be enrolled in the challenge and get some goodies to get them started, as well as checking out their first book.

The great part is there’s no set book list; children are free to choose whatever book and genre suits them! It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to explore the literary world – just think how excited you were after you first read Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree or Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach? Your little one might be lucky enough to have all that still to come!

There’s no official end date for the challenge, but your library will be able to confirm the local running time. Alongside the support of your library, the challenge has a website where your child can log the books they’ve read, find recommendations for great reads from other kids, watch exclusive videos from authors, and take part in competitions.

The challenge also offers amazing volunteering opportunities for youngsters aged 13–24, where they can support younger children who are taking part in the challenge to help them make the most of it. The Reading Agency’s volunteer programme, Reading Hack, is a chance to develop some great people skills, make new friends, improve your confidence, and is valuable work experience to give your CV something extra!

As a volunteer with the Challenge, you could be helping staff to run activities, creating amazing library displays or chatting to the kids about all the exciting books they’ve got their heads in. Just visit your local library to get involved. If you’ve got a passion for Potter or a taste for Tolkien, why not help pass that on to a younger generation?

Chapter 3: What are the Animal Agents?

Each year, the Summer Reading Challenge has a fun theme to engage the children, and for 2017 that’s the amazing Animal Agents, brought to life with a little help from the talented best-selling children’s illustrator Tony Ross. The Reading Agency’s CEO, Sue Wilkinson, has described how the theme is used to encourage children to keep on reading, and how this year’s theme “comes directly from the feedback we’ve received from children who told us that they love animals and mystery”.

Summer Reading Challenge 2017 Animal Agents Illustration

This year's theme: Animal Agents. Illustrations | Tony Ross 2017

The Animal Agents are a detective agency staffed by a collection of clever creatures, determined to crack a case. Sue hopes “we will see kids up and down the country solving a fun mystery at their local libraries and, as they work with Bernice the bear, Daisy the rabbit, and others, realising just how important being a good friend is in helping them do that”.

With each book they read, children receive a sticker (some of which are the always-fun scratch and sniff variety), which reveals clues to help both the Agents and kids identify a suspect behind suspicious goings-on at the local library.

So, whether your child already has a love of the written word, or is raring to be let loose in the world of pure imagination, the Summer Reading Challenge is a great activity to get involved in during the school holidays, and is a fantastic way to support your local library.

In the words of Hermione Granger: “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things! – Friendship and bravery.” But when your child bonds with friends over a good book this summer, it might just give them all of these things.

Find out more at Summer Reading Challenge


The Happiful Pledge! Each month, we donate 50p from every print copy sold through a subscription to our featured charity. For August 2017, we're supporting The Summer Reading Challenge.