Today is the start of the summer holidays. Today, too, is the start of The Reading Mission
, this year's summer reading challenge in libraries. "Can you read six books during the summer holidays?" children are challenged. "If you do, you will get a medal."
The books can be any six books the children like.
They can be fiction or non-fiction, easy or hard. No-one will complain if children decide to relax over the holidays by reading easy, non-challenging books. Because children can have totally free choice of books (well, as long as they are borrowed from the library, that is) they see the summer reading as fun. All too easily, reading can become a chore at school, and that can put children off. This way, even the least able reader can get a medal for their reading. For some, it is the first time ever that someone has praised them for an academic subject, and it can change their life.
(I bet you can't tell that I've spent the last few weeks writing press releases on this, writing to heads about this, and generally selling it to anyone I meet ;-) )
Anyway, every year, more and more children on the island take part. Every year, more and more of them rush in on the first day of the holidays to join. As a result, I'm spending all of today in the biggest library, helping to join people. Last year, I joined up 150 children on the first day alone. Each child needs several minutes of attention, because there are quite a few goodies to give to them when they sign up, as well as instructions. Central to the summer reading challenge ethos is that children get the chance to talk to library staff about books, and get listened to, so there's a whole lot of talking going on. I expect to return home tonight utterly exhausted, and with no voice.
But it's worth it. Children love it, and it's good for them, too. If anyone knows any children between 4 and 12, please tell them all about it. (If you know children under 4, they might be able to do it, too. I allow them to join in, on the grounds that you can still love books even if you can't read them, and getting a medal "for books" at 3 could make all the difference to a child's attitude to reading when they start school. However, not all library authorities let under 4s join in. Chances are, they'll have the Bookstart Book Crawl for 0-4s, though, which is similar in principle. It gives a lovely certificate every five library visits.)