My earliest reading memory is The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, read to us by our teacher Mrs Holmes in what would now be called year 4. It sparked an abiding interest in tales of witches, wizards and sorcery and in the eternal battle between light and dark. The legend at the heart of the story tells of a king and an army of knights, asleep beneath a hill until the day when they must awake to save the land from peril. I treasure my own copy, which I rescued when the local library was throwing out old stock. If I were to magically wake up tomorrow as my 10-year-old self, it would definitely be one of my choices for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge for children aged 4 to 11.
The Summer Reading Challenge is part of the #SummerofReading initiative, a shared programme of free partner events and resources to support families and teachers to keep children reading over the summer. “Coordinated by The Reading Agency, it brings together over 20 organisations across the reading, literacy and cultural sectors to inspire families to share the love of reading for pleasure to build skills, increase confidence, support educational attainment and improve wellbeing.” In its aims it mirrors the Summer of Play initiative that we have blogged about in recent weeks.
This year’s theme is Wild World Heroes and has been developed in partnership with WWF to support wider learning about the environment and nature:
Wild World Heroes will inspire children to explore ways of helping to save the planet, with a focus on taking action for nature and tackling real-world environmental issues, from plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss. Through taking part in the Challenge, children will be able to join the Wild World Heroes to help solve some of these threats, learning about the importance of the environment while helping to restore nature levels in the neighbourhood of ‘Wilderville’.from the Summer Reading Challenge website
Their advice for schools is a reminder of why collective action on children’s reading is needed. Taking part will, says the Challenge website:
The Summer of Reading resources page is a collection of useful links to reading-related family activities for the summer. One link, for example, is to the British Library’s Discovering Children’s Books page, “brimming with videos, printable packs and activities inspired by the wonderful world of children’s stories.”
For those looking for reading suggestions, the website of BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, is well worth a look. They have just published their list of the 100 best books for children from the last 100 years — “the ultimate booklist to read before you’re 14” — broken down into four separate age categories from 0–5 to 12–14.
In the last few months several Life-Based Learning blogs have focused on why a coordinated and sustained campaign to promote children’s reading is so important:
We have also highlighted the many benefits of reading for pleasure. For instance, it increases educational attainment. It broadens horizons. It promotes tolerance and understanding across cultures. It develops creativity and the imagination. It boosts mental health and wellbeing. And — the biggest ‘for instance’ of all — it correlates with life expectancy.
Image at the head of this article is from the Summer Reading Challenge website. Illustrations to help promote this year’s theme are by award-winning children’s author and illustrator Heath McKenzie.