This year's Summer Reading Challenge is about to start, just in time for the long, summer holidays, which will be great news for people looking for fun and free ways to encourage kids to read over the school holidays.

This year’s challenge is called Ready, Set, Read! and has a sports and games theme. A whole host of books have been carefully chosen to fit the theme, with many of them available at local libraries.

To complete the Summer Reading Challenge, children should borrow library books from Saturday 8 July to Saturday 23 September. The Challenge accepts all forms of reading, including books of any size and subject, not just sports and games but also graphic novels, poetry, picture books, eBooks, and audio books.

Cllr Steve Pitt, Leader of Portsmouth City Council and Cabinet Member responsible for culture, said:

“I am thrilled that Libraries are once again collaborating with The Reading Agency to bring the Summer Reading Challenge to Portsmouth. Reading provides a whole host of benefits. It improves self-esteem, frees the imagination, broadens the vocabulary, brings joy, and—most importantly—it’s fun! Our libraries will be hosting dozens of activities over the holidays to keep children busy.”

Cllr Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader at Portsmouth City Council and Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education said:

“The Summer Reading Challenge is a great way to get kids started in developing vital life skills, which will open up opportunities and enhance their enjoyment for the rest of their lives. We’ve already had some great events in Portsmouth to encourage children to read more, and I’m really looking forward to seeing lots more kids take part this year! “

There are two ways to take part in the challenge, in person or online. To take part in person simply visit any Portsmouth library to sign up for a library card, choose a reading goal, receive a special summer collector folder, and select some books to get started. Each time someone completes and returns a book, they will receive a library sticker and other special incentives, which will complete a page in their collector folder.

Children can also participate in the Challenge online by signing up on the Summer Reading Challenge website: summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/join-in. By choosing a reading goal and keeping track of progress on their profile, children will receive a virtual badge and certificate once they reach their objective.  The Challenge also has its own set of characters and activity cards showcasing various sports for all levels of ability, which can be found on the website.

Everyone who takes part in the Summer Reading Challenge will be invited to Southsea Castle on Sunday 24 September to collect their medal at the highly anticipated winners’ event, where there will be a host of exciting free activities to take part in.

As part of a continuous drive to inspire children to read, other events were held around the city.

  • On 9 June, the Year 1 Picture Book Award winner was announced in a day of events at four schools, involving over 500 pupil judges from 8 schools in the area. The winning author and illustrator, Paula Bowles said she was ‘over the moon’ to receive this award and to receive recognition from pupils for her book “Tiny Crab is a Tidy Crab”.
  • Year 8 and 9 pupils attended a celebration of reading on 27 June at the University of Portsmouth for the annual School Library Service Portsmouth Longer Novel Book Award 2023 event. The winner was Liz Kessler, author of When the World Was Ours. Portsmouth’s Reading Champions, pupils from St Edmund’s Catholic School and The Portsmouth Academy, were also recognised.
  • The School Library Service also saw a Big City Read event for year 6 pupils on 30 June. This was a live stream from Portsmouth Central Library with author Adam Baron, involving 35 schools in the city school. Around 2,500 pupils were given a copy of Adam’s book Some Sunny Day, and some were able to ask him questions during the event. The event was organised by the council with the support of staff and students from the University of Portsmouth.