The popular annual Summer Reading Challenge for children aged 4-11 is under way once more through KCC’s libraries service – despite the library buildings themselves being currently closed.
This year’s theme is “Silly Squad” which is all about funny books, happiness and things that make us laugh. Children taking part in the challenge will join the Silly Squad, an adventurous team of animals who love to have a laugh and get stuck into many different kinds of funny books.
Children’s reading can dip during the long summer holidays if they do not have regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure, and the annual Summer Reading Challenge is intended to address this.
Last year 19,111 Kent children took part in the Summer Reading Challenge (Space Chase – 2019) – with 11,175 children completing the Challenge – significant increases of 12% and 15% respectively on 2018.
Usually children visit their local library to register and collect a wallet, stickers and other rewards as they progress through the challenge, reading a total of six books.
However, with the disruption caused by COVID-19 causing public libraries to be currently closed, the 2020 Challenge will work in a different way. For the first time in Kent, it is going to be a digital-only activity to keep children reading and support parents and carers with children already at home.
Silly Squad launched on Friday with a special day of curated virtual events on the Summer Reading Challenge’s Facebook page. It includes special super silly readings, family activities and draw-a-longs from guest celebrities and authors. The challenge then runs through the summer until the end of September.
The digital challenge will be free to access, featuring games, quizzes and downloadable activities to incentivise and encourage children and their families to take part in reading related activities at home.
Children can choose their own reading goals, create book reviews, play games and collect virtual rewards. Parents and guardians can register their children online at www.sillysquad.org.uk via the safe, sign-up process.
Although library buildings are closed, Kent Libraries will continue to deliver the Challenge by promoting it to families, and e-Books and e-Audio books are free to borrow from www.kent.gov.uk/libraries with titles for children as well as adults. eBooks and eAudio are automatically returned so you do not have to keep an eye on the due date.
There will also be weekly virtual Silly Squad-themed creative craft challenges during the Challenge – check here www.facebook.com/KentLibrariesArchives
Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “The Summer Reading Challenge has been a great success in previous years and an effective way to encourage children to continue regular reading while schools are closed for the holidays.
“As The Reading Agency says, with school life disrupted and many children missing the company of their friends, this year’s Summer Reading Challenge will be even more important as a way to help parents and carers find family-friendly activities, have fun and maintain literacy levels from the safety of their own homes.”
Children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, who is a Summer Reading Challenge Ambassador, said: “I feel the challenge is extra important this year. How sensible to have a Silly theme. We’ve all had to deal with serious and scary issues, so it’s time for a bit of fun. There are so many comical and crazy children’s books to cheer us all up. Let’s get reading and get happy.”
Karen Sillifant, Business Development Officer with Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives, said: “It’s great that we can offer children such a fun and rewarding activity as Silly Squad even though our libraries are closed at the moment.
“The Summer Reading Challenge is a regular fixture in our calendars – this year it’s starting even earlier than usual because so many children aren’t at school. Although our library buildings are currently shut, we are still open for business through our digital services. We’ve got lots of eBooks and eAudio books – all free to borrow – and are very happy to help children and their families discover them. We will also have some entertaining online activities too, so we’re looking forward to a fun-filled summer.”
Find out more about the Challenge at www.summerreadingchallenge.org.uk.