Summer Reading Challenge & Reading for Pleasure Tips
Did you know, the Summer Reading Challenge officially begins this Saturday (8th July 2023) in England and Wales? If you’re aged 4 to 11, you can take part in this year’s Ready, Set, Read! sport and play-themed challenge – created in partnership with Youth Sport Trust and illustrated by the brilliant children’s writer and illustrator Loretta Schauer.
Each year, over 700,000 children take part in the reading challenge and this year’s challenge has been designed to not only encourage reading for pleasure but also to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the summer break – avoiding the dreaded summer reading ‘dip’! The challenge also aims to motivate and empower primary school children to build their skills and self-conﬁdence while forging new connections with others.
How to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge
It is easy for children to take part, either online (by signing up via the official website) where you can set a reading goal and log your books on your profile (when you reach your goal you will unlock a virtual badge and certificate); or at your local library and take part in person. The librarian will provide a collector folder, stickers and other special rewards, and help find books to read. Hopefully, these books will show young people that imagination and play can unlock endless possibilities and the library is where this all starts!
The Summer Reading Challenge is presented by The Reading Agency and delivered in partnership with public libraries, funded by Arts Council England and powered by Nike and Rebel Girls. More information about the challenge and how to take part can be found here: https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/
Language at the Speed of Sight
While the reading challenge sounds like a lot of fun, it did get us thinking about the science behind reading comprehension and how people (children in particular) learn or are taught how to read and that it isn’t a case of one-size-fits-all.
In the book Language at the Speed of Sight by Mark Seidenberg, he states that “Learning to read is a complex problem because multiple overlapping subskills develop at the same time.” While parents might have the task of teaching children how to read, librarians and teachers are often charged with the job of making children good readers who read for pleasure; however, that is no easy task when you consider the subtle nuances involved, including base knowledge and the potential advantages of discovery of meaning through experiences, which are likely to be very different when it comes to literacy.
I really enjoy reading and consider myself a skilled reader, but I may have been deluding myself for many years that learning to enjoy reading is as simple as picking up a book and away you go – a tactic I unsuccessfully deployed with both my children! This approach to reading does not work for everyone and is it really surprising with so much competing for our attention these days whether you’re a child or an adult?
To be honest, I’ve never actually thought about the science behind reading. When I have read something, I know that I have generally understood it and more often than not enjoyed it, but I could never explain why or what compels me to pick up another book and another. Why is reading so addictive for me (and lots of other people), but an absolute chore to be endured for many others?
Top tips for getting into reading for pleasure
I’m sure there are lots of you working in schools and libraries who could explain it so I wouldn’t find the science of reading comprehension quite so baffling (hats off to you!), but I thought I’d put together a few (non-expert) tips of my own if you’re someone to whom reading does not come naturally.
I think the point I’m making is if you’re considering using the holiday period to partake in any kind of Summer Reading Challenge, official or of your own making, but feel like it’s something you might struggle with, don’t beat yourself up. We can’t all be voracious readers (because, science), but perhaps these 10 top tips will help you get started…
1. Start by reading 5 pages or for 10 minutes a day and build up gradually from there.
2. Choose a book about something you’re really interested in.
3. Read at lunchtime rather than first thing in the morning or before bed so your brain is more alert.
4. Make time to read but read when you actually feel like reading – don’t force it or do it under sufferance.
5. Start with a short story or novella.
6. Pick a book with short chapters to help build reading momentum.
7. Read an actual book rather than an e-book as you’ll get a more visual sign of the progress you’re making.
8. Pick a good location where you can relax and are unlikely to be disturbed.
9. Make notes as you read, especially if it’s something you don’t understand and might need to look up later.
10. Switch your phone off to eliminate distractions – probably the most useful tip!
If you have fun with your Summer Reading Challenge, whatever form that may take, why not keep an eye out for the Winter Mini Challenge for young people, or get involved with the 52 Book Club’s 2023 Reading Challenge? And do let us know how you, your school or your library got on with this year’s reading challenge as well as your top tips for getting into reading – we’d love to hear from you!