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The Summer Reading Challenge and Schools

Libraries are great places for children to discover reading for pleasure and there is no better time to do this than during the long summer holidays.

The Summer Reading Challenge is designed for children between the ages of 4 and 11. It is completely free and last year over three quarters of a million children took part in libraries across the UK.

Every year the Challenge has a new theme. In 2018 the Summer Reading Challenge was called Mischief Makers, inspired by the much-loved iconic children’s title Beano, which celebrated its 80th anniversary.

Children explored a map of Beanotown to find the mysterious buried treasure and become ultimate mischief makers. Dennis, Gnasher and friends helped thousands of young readers solve clues and collect stickers, having lots of fun and adventures along the way!

How does the Summer Reading Challenge work?


How do schools benefit?

The Challenge is run in public libraries, in the summer holidays, and is free for children to take part. By getting your pupils involved in the Summer Reading Challenge, your school can:

  • Enhance and support the school’s reading initiatives and involve parents and the wider community.

  • Continue to support pupils’ learning during the holidays in a fun, creative and child-directed way.

  • Help to prevent the trend for children’s reading skills to dip over the holidays.

  • Encourage pupils and families to join their library, to browse, choose and borrow books for free and to enjoy a free, safe, community learning space.

  • Make great links with your local library staff who can support you in your work with families and reading.

  • Ensure your pupils return in the autumn term ready for a great start to the new academic year.

  • Provide further opportunities in the holidays for activities that link to the reading, comprehension and spoken language recommendations in the national curricula in England, Scotland and Wales and to the recommendations in the Department for Education’s report Reading; the next steps, (March 2015, DfE)

  • Provide evidence to OFSTED of your school’s involvement in community initiatives and social and cultural activities

  • Support public libraries

How do schools get their pupils involved?

You can:

  • Invite your local library staff into school in the summer term to talk about the Summer Reading Challenge and what is going on at your local library in the holidays.
  • Plan lessons and activities that link to the Challenge theme
  • Inspire your pupils to participate by exploring this website, playing the games, and watching the videos, all of which can be used both in the classroom, at home and in the library.
  • Take part in the competitions on the website as a class or as a school.
  • Use the Book Sorter in class and in library lessons. Encourage your pupils to share the site with their families and to create a profile at home, perhaps as a homework activity
  • Inform parents and encourage families to take part by talking about it in your letters home, providing a link on your school website and telling parents about it at parents’ evenings, sports days and induction days for pupils starting school in September. Your local library may provide you with invitations for pupils to take home in their book bags.
  • Organise a trip to the library with pupils and parents to join and to sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge.
  • Celebrate the achievements of pupils who participate in the Challenge in September with a celebration assembly attended by your local library staff or by taking photos of Challenge completers with their certificates and medals for your school newsletter. Challenge your school to beat last year’s total number of Challenge completers. Many library authorities offer trophies and prizes for the schools with the highest participation numbers.
  • Use the data on your pupils’ participation, year on year, as evidence of your school’s reading for pleasure initiatives and of your school’s engagement with the local community and pupils’ social and cultural development.
  • Inspire your pupils by getting staff to also join the library and read six library books themselves over the holidays. It’s a great way to get to know the local library staff and for teachers to develop their knowledge of children’s literature. School staff might even volunteer to help run the Challenge.

It’s free, local and inclusive

  • The Summer Reading Challenge is inclusive of all children and families and all stages of reading development. Children choose whatever they want to borrow. There are no levels.
  • Children read six or more books of their choice: fiction, non-fiction, joke books, picture books; any books they like as long as they are borrowed from the library. They talk about them in the library with a member of staff or young volunteer and receive rewards along the way and a medal and/or certificate when they complete the Challenge.
  • There is also a mini-challenge for pre-school children so that the whole family can take part.
  • Family information leaflets are available in a range of community languages and many items are available in large print. Ask your local library staff for more information.
  • Libraries stock accessible texts, audio books, dual – language books, picture books and graphic novels.


Librarians and teachers in secondary schools play an important role in encouraging pupils to volunteer as Reading Hackers to help library staff run the Challenge in public libraries over the summer.

Last year, almost 8,000 young people gave their time in libraries across the country during the summer holidays, and helped over three quarters of a million children read and share books.

Find out more about Reading Hack here.


We also co-ordinate a national network of book groups for children called Chatterbooks. Visit chatterbooks.org.uk for more information and free resources to set up a book group in your school.

Our mission is to tackle life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. Find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge and The Reading Agency’s work with children