Harry Wearing
By Harry Wearing

Senior Staff Writer

18 May 2021

| | 3 min read


The Reading Agency to pilot integrated model for Summer Reading Challenge 2021 in Newcastle

  • National charity working with Newcastle libraries to pilot a new partnership approach, designed to increase access for children to the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge
  • Children in targeted areas to receive Challenge collector packs at the end of the summer term, along with access to the public library through primary schools and other settings
  • Model offers a cost-effective ‘£1 a child’ approach to support learning catch-up and ensure children who need the benefits of reading most have access to summer reading activity
Summer Reading Challenge
Summer Reading Challenge

National charity The Reading Agency is working with Newcastle Libraries and other library authority partners across the UK to pilot a local authority partnership model for delivery of this year's Summer Reading Challenge. The annual reading for pleasure programme delivered in partnership with public libraries reaches over 700,000 children across the UK each year, keeping them reading through the summer with incentives and fun activities. This year’s Wild World Heroes themed Challenge in partnership with WWF will launch in June/July 2021.  

Through the local authority pilot work and supported by a new digital Challenge platform, the charity and its library partners will be aiming to increase engagement in the Challenge to children who might not normally take part, particularly those in areas of disadvantage. Evidence shows that the Challenge is an effective Covid recovery tool, encouraging reading for pleasure over the summer holidays, building reading skills and confidence, and helping to prevent the 'dip' in reading skills while children are out of school.

The pilot involves public libraries working with other local authority partners including education, social care, children’s services and public health to support universal and/or targeted entitlement to summer reading activity through the Summer Reading Challenge via primary schools and other relevant networks. For £1 per child, authorities can provide access to the Challenge plus a range of incentives and rewards to encourage the reading habit – all free to children and families at the point of access. A cohort of library services have been testing the response to the proposed model with local authority partners, with ten authorities securing cross-authority support to pilot the approach in 2021.

The pilot model is based on public library services working at a strategic level across the local authority to support universal access to the benefits of summer reading activity whilst also targeting communities most in need. Evidence shows this engagement is likely to deliver an increase and improvement in reading engagement, motivation, confidence and communication skills. There is also evidence to show that engagement with the Challenge supports wellbeing and family connectedness vital in a post pandemic landscape where children are estimated to have lost at least two months of learning in reading and existing inequalities have been amplified.

Cohort authorities are testing a range of approaches with the aim of expanding Summer Reading Challenge reach and entitlement - library services taking part in the pilot, with support from local authorities, include those in: Newcastle, Oldham, the London boroughs of Newham and Islington, Staffordshire, Leeds, Manchester, Libraries NI (Northern Ireland), Portsmouth and Jersey. Collectively, the services are aiming to reach over 100,000 additional children with the new model.

Paula Holland, Cabinet member for Education and Skills said;

'Newcastle is proud to be a child friendly, family first city and we are thrilled to have been selected to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge. 

'Children and young people in all corners of the city have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, they have missed out on essential learning, socialising and development opportunities.  We are working with partners across the city to create new, exciting, and engaging opportunities to kick start their learning and ignite their imaginations. 

'Our libraries will be open to everyone and we will encourage all families, including those from deprived backgrounds, to visit a library and enter the wonderful world of books. Reading accelerates language development and will help young people realise their potential in the classroom.'

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said: “Never has it been more important to support children's engagement with the proven power of reading and start their reading journeys. Reading not only develops life skills and learning but also supports mental health and well-being.

"The past year has been particularly challenging for children across the country, and we hope that by working with local authorities on this new integrated approach, the benefits of the Summer Reading Challenge will reach more families than ever."