14 July 2011

Roll up! Roll up! Libraries across the UK are getting ready to introduce children to a summertime circus spectacle that will keep them reading throughout the school summer holidays....with the 2011 Summer Reading Challenge.

And it’s all free fun, which is top news for parents! The Summer Reading Challenge is just one of many exciting schemes public libraries are developing to help children love reading, gaining confidence and new skills. So mums, dads and carers, pop down to your local library and find out more!

The Summer Reading Challenge is an immensely popular and successful reading initiative. Now in its thirteenth successful year it reaches 750,000 children aged four to 12 years annually via the UK library network. It is created and run by The Reading Agency, the independent charity working to inspire more people to read more, and is supported by children’s publishers.

Each year the Summer Reading Challenge to children is simple. They’re encouraged to read six or more books of their choice during the holidays with collectable incentives and rewards, plus a certificate and medal for every child who completes the Challenge.

Children can sign up at their local library in Northamptonshire from Saturday 23rd July and all materials are absolutely free to children. There are also over 580 activities taking place in the 36 libraries across the county, from circus skills workshops, to a visit by Animal Edutainment with some small live animals, to craft and book related activities, and for the younger children – rhymetimes. Most of these activities are free and can be found by visiting our website or ask at your local library.

The 2011 Summer Reading Challenge has a circus theme. Called Circus Stars, it owes more to Cirque due Soleil, the new generation of circuses and the performance arts than the old-fashioned Big Top circus. The Circus Stars razzmatazz starts with six children who have signed up for a contemporary circus skills academy.

As they read books, mirrored by children everywhere who are doing the Challenge via their local libraries, they gain new circus skills through three important stages: Practice, Rehearsal and Show Time! The artwork for Circus Stars comes from top children’s illustrator Nick Price, who has illustrated Emily Bearn’s Tumtum and Nutmeg series (Egmont Books) and has just reillustrated the Wombles for the new editions of Elisabeth Bereford’s beloved books (Bloomsbury).

There is an interactive Circus Stars website (www.circus-stars.org.uk), linking children with top authors and illustrators, and giving them space to talk about their favourite books and to share reading ideas. Circus Stars also promotes their local library as a place of wonder for children, where librarians can offer them invaluable advice and guidance.

Once again this year there are large print Summer Reading Challenge materials available for visually impaired children, thanks to the support of the RNIB National Library Service.

In Northamptonshire there are over 120 young volunteers aged 14-17 trained and ready to help explain to the children about the challenge, chat to them about the books they have been reading, and help with the many activities taking place in libraries across the county.

“Our research shows that children really enjoy taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge,” says Anne Sarrag, Summer Reading Challenge director for The Reading Agency. ”It’s a great way to keep them entertained over the holidays, but more importantly, we know that children who take part read more books and read more widely than those who don’t, with potentially life-changing results”.



The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more. It is funded by the Arts Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. (www.readingagency.org.uk)

  • Importance of reading for pleasure for children’s life chances: Reading for Change, OECD, 2002. This showed that students who were more enthusiastic about and engaged in reading performed better in tests, and that being a frequent reader was more of an advantage, on its own, than wealth or social status.
  • For more information about Summer Reading Challenge volunteering opportunities for young people, please visit: www.readingagency.org.uk/young/volunteering/
  • The Summer Reading Challenge 210 report showed that:
  • 760,000 children took part across the UK in the 2010 Challenge, called Space Hop (35,000 more than in 2009)
  • 97% of UK library authorities took part
  • 220,000 children attended Space Hop events organised by libraries.
  • Visit www.readingagency.org.uk/children/summer-reading-challenge for more facts and to download the 2010 Space Hop report.