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Thousands of Welsh children took on the challenge to read during the summer holidays

Huge numbers of children across Wales took part in the 20th anniversary of a reading challenge which was space-themed in 2019 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, and featured bespoke artwork from top children’s illustrator Adam Stower.

The Reading Agency and public libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge reached 37,469 children across Wales during the school holidays. The challenge is endorsed by parents, teachers, the Books Council of Wales and the Welsh Government.

The challenge is the UK’s biggest annual reading promotion for children aged 4–11. It aims to encourage children to visit their local libraries and inspire them to read for pleasure, and is run by all the library authorities in Wales.

With the increasing pressure on the public library system with regard to staffing and resources, it is encouraging that libraries are still able to support large numbers of children with their reading during the summer holidays, with 62% going on to complete the challenge and read six or more books.

Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales, said: “The Summer Reading Challenge is an important initiative encouraging children to make time during the school summer holidays to read. Many teachers find that when children return to school after the summer holidays, some have taken a step back and have not come into contact with books for six weeks, which can have a detrimental impact on their development.

“Libraries in Wales are under more and more pressure, so it’s wonderful to see that over 37,000 children in Wales have taken part in the challenge at their local library this year, and this is a testament to the hard work of library staff across Wales.”

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Research shows that only 1 in 4 boys read outside of class every day, however, 45% of challenge participants were boys.

Kay Thomas, Principal Librarian of Powys Libraries said: “The Summer Reading Challenge is a great way to get children reading for pleasure, and the Space Race was a theme which particularly appealed to boys – it really captured their imagination!

“Public libraries across Wales are very grateful to the Welsh Books Council for their support with producing the bilingual materials, the grants for activities, and for publicising the challenge nationally – the economies of scale help us to go on helping children to read and achieve their potential. Across Wales, some 225,000 books were read by children over the summer holidays, which is definitely out of this world!”

The Reading Agency and public libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge has been instilling a love of books in children for over twenty years. A total of 722,731 children took part across the UK and in 21 countries overseas through a partnership with the British Council; this is a 2.64% increase on last year’s participation.

Next year, the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge, Silly Squad, will be a celebration of funny books, happiness and laughter. The guest illustrator is award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Laura Ellen Anderson, who will be creating bespoke artwork for the 2020 Challenge.