Children in Stoke-on-Trent are being encouraged to ‘get silly’ this summer during a reading challenge which aims to increase their love of books.

The Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge 2020, produced by The Reading Agency, asks four to 11-year-olds to read any six books – or more – over the school holidays. Stoke-on-Trent Libraries is joining in the annual project and this year’s theme will be a celebration of funny books, happiness and laughter.

Children who take part in the challenge online – at sillysquad.org.uk – will find out more about the Silly Squad characters and their amazing house, as well as a mysterious villain who wants to spoil the fun. Youngsters can then unlock digital content, activities and videos as rewards for their reading.

On Saturday July 11, Stoke-on-Trent Libraries began to launch its local activities for the Summer Reading Challenge. This includes a free online event with storyteller John Kirk, who will perform Roald Dahl’s The Twits. The live event – available through a video call –  is on Wednesday, July 22 at 11am. Tickets will be available to library members and must be booked in advance by emailing central.library@stoke.gov.uk

During the school holidays, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Summer Reading Challenge in Stoke-on-Trent will be entirely digital and there will be no physical materials and rewards available in the city’s libraries.

Instead, children can sign up online with their parent or guardian and then – for the time being – borrow books using the following methods:

• E-books and e-audiobooks are available to download and borrow for free at www.stoke.gov.uk/libraries and they both count towards the challenge. Customers can sign up for provisional membership online to access all of the service’s e-books, e-audiobooks and e-magazines. Library users with a standard membership card number (28080xxxxxxxxx) can also access a full suite of online services.

• Click, Call and Collect from Longton and Tunstall libraries. Customers can browse the library catalogue online via www.stoke.gov.uk/libraries to order specific titles. Alternatively, contact Longton or Tunstall library by phone or email, inform staff the age of your child and the type of books they enjoy, and the team will put a selection of books together for them – contact longton.library@stoke.gov.uk or call 01782 238424, or tunstall.library@stoke.gov.uk or call 01782 238471. For more information on Click, Call and Collect, including frequently asked questions, please click here.

Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, city council cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said: “National research shows children’s reading can dip during the long summer holidays if they don’t have regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure. That same issue will also have affected some children across the country during the coronavirus pandemic – and we want to make sure we do everything we can to encourage reading by working across our services, including our libraries, and with partner organisations.

The Summer Reading Challenge is a fantastic opportunity to encourage children to read and get their families involved too. There are loads of resources available online and plenty of activities and virtual rewards if children take part. And given the past few months and the difficulties many children and their families will have faced, the Silly Squad theme is an ideal way to encourage fun, happiness and laughter through reading and enjoying books together.”

There will be a host of other local Summer Reading Challenge activities available at librariesonline.stoke.gov.uk and on @sotlibraries on Twitter and /stokeontrentlibraries on Facebook from now until September 12. Library users should watch this space for more details in the coming weeks.

Stoke-on-Trent library services began to return from the lockdown after the Longton and Tunstall sites started the Click, Call and Collect service from Monday, July 6. This is part of plans for a careful, phased reopening of all six Stoke-on-Trent libraries. The city council will provide more details on plans for the further reopening of libraries shortly.

While some libraries are temporarily closed, there is also a huge range of online resources available at stoke.gov.uk/libraries and the service is also running a number of general activities and challenges on social media.

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