Staffordshire Libraries and Arts Service run a very successful annual Summer Reading Challenge. Early Years practitioners in Staffordshire reported a negative impact on the development of early speech and language as a result of the pandemic in 2020. The Mini Summer Reading Challenge seemed an ideal programme to support parents and settings with early speech and language in the home learning environment.
The Summer Reading Challenge is the UK’s largest reading for pleasure programme for children aged 4-11 years.
Designed by The Reading Agency Summer Reading Challenge | Reading Agency and delivered in partnership with public libraries the Summer Reading Challenge reaches over 700,000 children across the UK each year.
The Summer Reading Challenge encourages children to read for pleasure over the summer holidays. The Summer Reading Challenge enables children to practice their reading skills, develop a love of reading and helps to prevent the ‘dip’ in reading during the long summer break from school.
For pre-school children there is a Mini Summer Reading Challenge that encourages parents and carers to share stories with their pre-school child, develop early speech and language skills and encourage a love of books and reading.
Staffordshire Libraries and Arts Service run a very successful annual Summer Reading Challenge with over 10,000 4-11 year olds participating at a Staffordshire Library. The Library Service had never run the Mini Challenge and in 2020 when Early Years practitioners in Staffordshire reported a negative impact on the development of early speech and language as a result of the pandemic and the numerous lockdowns the Mini Summer Reading Challenge seemed an ideal programme to support parents and settings with early speech and language in the home learning environment.
What we did
The Library Service approached the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Early Outcomes Funding steering group with a proposal and costings to run the Mini Summer Reading Challenge in targeted areas during the Summer 2020.
If successful the Mini Challenge would be integrated into the core Summer Reading Challenge with support for the purchase of materials from the existing library budgets for 2021.
Funding was granted and a Library Zervice Officer took responsibility for working with the Early Years Team at Staffordshire County Council to implement the project.
The focus was on areas where there was a medium to high risk of poorer outcomes for children and families.
A package of resources was created for the targeted nurseries:
- Briefing sheet for early years providers outlining the Mini Challenge activity and the benefits for settings and families.
- A letter for parents to be sent by the setting.
- An invitation for parents to take to the library to participate in the Mini Summer Reading Challenge.
- An evaluation sheet for families to complete and settings to complete.
- Posters and flyers were created for settings to promote the activity.
Library Development Officers visited the settings in their areas with the resources and to explain the activity to providers and families and to encourage the families to sign up in their setting and visit their local library.
- 490 children started the Mini Challenge (eight percent of total Summer Reading Challenge participants at a Staffordshire Library).
- 221 children completed the Mini Challenge (six percent of total Summer Reading Challenge completers).
Feedback indicated that participating families:
- joined a library to take part
- read more books together.
Families reported that there was an improvement in children’s concentration and they learnt about counting, colours, animal noises, textures.
Families said that they would participate and that they would visit the library again.
Learning for the library team
- Integrate the Mini Challenge into the core Summer Reading Challenge focussing on joint communication, promotion and evaluation.
- Keeping both Challenges separate became quite complicated for library staff.
- Encourage sign-up through libraries.
- Sign-up through settings became complicated on occasions.
- Communicate earlier with nurseries and provide less information.
- Library Development Officers to build communication into their Summer Reading Challenge communication with schools plan.
In 2022 the Mini Challenge was integrated into the core Summer Reading Challenge and was offered to all families with pre-school children rather than children in targeted areas.
1,322 children under four participated in the Mini Summer Reading Challenge (13 percent of the total number of children participating in the core Summer Reading Challenge).
644 children under four completed the Mini Summer Reading Challenge (11 percent of the total number of children completing the core Summer Reading Challenge).
The Mini Summer Reading Challenge is now embedded in the library reading offer for children in Staffordshire and supports families with the home learning environment providing children with a best start opportunity.
Sue Ball MBE | Interim Libraries & Arts Manager
Tel: 01785 854170