More than 37,000 children helped solve a series of mysterious crimes as part of this year’s Animal Agents Summer Reading Challenge, borrowing almost 400,000 books.
The UK’s biggest reading challenge, produced by the Reading Agency and delivered by libraries, saw 37,040 under 10s from 505 Essex schools take part, up almost 1,000 on last year.
Another 4,000 students took part in ImagiNation 2017, the challenge specifically for over 10s by creating artwork for display in their local library or writing reviews inspired by the books they read.
In its 19th year, the challenge helps improve child literacy during the summer holidays when reading levels traditionally drop.
Zac Plumb, eight, of Maldon, was a reluctant reader until he took part in last year’s Summer Reading Challenge, which inspired him so much that he recently won a school award for reading over 100 books during the school year.
He said: “I really liked earning things like the certificate and medal for finishing the reading challenge. It made me really happy because I love reading now.”
His mum Julia added: “Zac is a real book junkie now, often falling asleep with the lights on and a book over his face, as he simply can’t get enough of all the stories he’s reading.”
This year, children aged between 3 and 10, used a free ‘top secret’ information pack, which challenged them to read six books of their choice in order to collect the clues needed to help the Animal Agents solve three crime scenarios, and earn a medal and certificate. On top of that there were treasure hunts and special agent days, all delivered by more than 500 volunteers and library staff.
Cllr Susan Barker, cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “The Summer Reading Challenge has been a fantastic success, helping more than 40,000 children across Essex to improve their literacy skills during the summer break.
“More than 500 volunteers and library staff helped make the initiative possible by taking the time to listen to what children had to say about the books they were reading, encouraging them to try different genres or more challenging books, and generally boosting their reading confidence.
“I would encourage children to continue utilising our libraries and make the most of the excellent services available all year round.
“Libraries aren’t just about the summer fun. With new books arriving regularly, Baby and Toddler Rhymetimes, Stay and Play craft days, Blockbuilder and Code Clubs, as well as special events, there is something for every child throughout the year.”
Visit libraries.essex.gov.uk for information or follow Essex Libraries on Twitter