Summer Reading Challenge

Summer Reading Challenge 2022

Summer Reading Challenge

Summer Reading Challenges: here’s our summer reading challenge for 2022 and our ideas and advice on how to develop an effective challenge that results in positive and long-term improvement in attitudes towards reading amongst your student body. Click this link to go straight to the details of our 2022 summer reading challenge.

What are your reading challenge goals?

Reading challenges should be accessible and unlimited. If your school already operates a reading challenge, ask the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of your reading challenge?
  • Will your reading challenge appeal to all your students?
  • Is your challenge accessible and realistic?
  • What outcomes are you hoping for?

The moment a reading challenge requires students to read more and more, or to read unrealistically beyond their interests, or to read only a particular topic, the challenge becomes less accessible and more limited; and in terms of developing a genuine reading culture for all – less likely to succeed.

Avoid challenges that preach to the converted or lack accessibility for children

Do book bingos, exhaustive tick-lists, 100+ book challenges, read until you drop marathons or never-ending book journeys have a lasting effect once they have been completed? Do children even remember them after a term? Will they change a school’s culture?

For any challenge you consider introducing to your school, bear in mind that not every child wants to read a considerable number of books (yet) and not every child has access to lots of books at home.

Picture the start of the autumn term. During the first assembly, a group of children receive recognition for the sheer number of books they’ve read over the summer. It’s impressive, and it’s encouraging for them at that moment; but does it inspire the other 90% of the watching school population? And does the buzz of a certificate – one amongst many – have a significant or lasting motivational effect?

‘Summer reading challenges’ and holiday catch-up programs have existed for over 100 years and were first pioneered in the United States in the 1890s. However, it is arguable that a lot of them have changed little to adapt to today’s students and technology. Many schools wheel out the annual reading bingo photocopiable because ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it!’ Or, ‘I found it for free on the internet’, or ‘someone sent it to us in the post as marketing and it’s all been done for us’. Consider this – who were those schemes developed for? Were they created to benefit your pupils or to benefit an outside organisation? Will printing out 800 of them effect real change or will it simply help to euthanase your photocopier? Do such schemes encourage any new enthusiasm for reading, or do they simply preach to and praise the converted?

And consider this. Are there better ways to promote reading, do you have a strategy you can tailor to the specific requirements of your pupil body, and most importantly, does your school have a strategy to encourage all your students to want to read?

What to look for in an effective summer reading challenge

A good reading challenge will not only promote reading and encourage reading for pleasure, but it will encourage a reading culture to spread like a virus throughout your school. The best propagators of enthusiasm for reading are your students – so it’s essential that a reading challenge encourages children and teens to not only be enthusiastic about what they’ve read, but to spread their passion amongst their friends and classmates, and challenge those parts of the student body that teachers cannot reach to want to read.

All reading, and responses to reading, should be celebrated. Reading doesn’t simply involve books. Newspapers, magazines, comics, the internet, emails, messages, timetables, brochures, travel plans, receipts, plans, research, puzzles, diaries, letters, instructions, and many more forms of writing will impact children and teens during the summer holiday as much, if not more, than fiction and literature.

Ensure your school reading challenge offers all children a choice. Allow them to pick what form of writing inspired them to read. Offer all your children an opportunity to convey how and why that writing inspired them. Genuine enthusiasm and recommendations by their peers are always more likely to connect and persuade. Adults can guide and recommend books, but it’s the students that really drive a successful reading for pleasure culture.

A great reading challenge idea is one that is simple, clear and can be adapted to meet the needs of your pupils. A successful reading challenge needs to embody student ownership and empower student choice regarding reading material.

For ready-to-go reading challenge ideas, have a look at our summer reading challenge; or peruse one of the many long-running and successful strategies such as the Scottish Book Trust’s excellent First Minister’s Reading Challenge, or the Reading Agency’s annual challenge.

Transition reading challenge ideas

Transition is a great opportunity to reset negative attitudes towards reading and instil new positivity and greater expectations. Getting students to talk about books is a brilliant way to start off the autumn term. Consider embedding a reading challenge into your transition process. Challenges and book talks can be:

  • A good icebreaker for year 7 inductions sessions.
  • A great way to start library sessions at the start of each year.
  • A perfect way to help new form groups to get to know each other.

Convincing young people that personal reading is useful and worthwhile

Consider how reading can provide students with shortcuts and experience for dealing with real events. Young people love to watch TikTok and YouTube and find out what people are doing, what friends have done, how to master a particular skill, how to deal with a situation and ultimately how to get to where they want to be in life.

Both fiction and nonfiction can provide these answers, and recent YA TikTok bestsellers have tended to include familiar situations and characters that pupils can relate to, whether it be bullying, relationships; or dealing with school, family, or mental health issues. With TikTok in particular, word of mouth recommendations have fueled the enthusiasm (and sales) for titles such as They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera, We Were Liars by E Lockhart, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Convincing your school community

The best person to sell a child or teen on the power of reading is always another child or teen. Putting this at the heart of your reading challenge will go a long way to ensuring long-term improvements in your school’s reading culture.

Have a look at the persuasive video resources in our summer challenge ideas for KS2, KS3, KS4 and KS5 below.

And finally, if you come up against in-house opposition from number-crunching SLT types demanding empirical evidence, remind them of the less than seminal work of JEvans Pritchard, PhD and play this clip from Dead Poets Society in your staff meeting.

Empower your pupils to read. Carpe Diem!


2022 School Reading List Summer Reading Challenge

Here’s our 2022 summer reading challenge. It’s not simply I read a book and I liked it. Pass it on – although even that could have a positive benefit across a cohort. No, this challenge is designed to be simple and accessible, yet powerful. It invites students to make positive reading choices and share how the written word can change how they think about their lives and the world.  It also invites pupils to challenge others – friends, classmates, family members, teachers and the wider community – to want to read it for themselves.

Choose: Children and young adults should be encouraged to choose what they want to read. It might be a book, a magazine, a letter, or an article online. It could be anything with words.
Change: Tell the world how reading it moved you, how it changed the way you think, how it helped you as a person or how it encouraged you to take action.
Challenge: Spread the word and influence by challenging others to read it too – either face to face, in school, or for older pupils, online.

How much guidance is provided regarding book choices, how to share and how to challenge others is up to you as the teacher.

Summer Reading Challenge 2022

Reading challenge ideas for teachers

Choosing books

Sharing the reading experience

  • Short speeches can be powerful and rewarding and can be integrated into English lessons, library periods or form time.
  • Short videos can be produced as homework, as part of ICT or during English curriculum time.
  • PowerPoints are ideal for 1st-person presentations, sharing on intranets or converting into animated shorts.
  • Library displays, working walls and posters will be seen and experienced by students every day.
  • Bookmark reviews – install pupil voice directly inside the book itself.
  • The school website – utilise your school’s internet presence to promote reading.
  • Social media stories, reels and video clips – share your school’s passion for books with the wider school community.

Challenge others to want to read

  • In school assemblies or class assemblies.
  • During form time.
  • Within library sessions or English lessons.
  • Through written or media features on your school website, intranet, VLE, or school newsletter.
  • Via school social media accounts.

Video resources for KS2


In this clip, nine-year-old Luke Bakic delivers a TED talk about his passion for reading and why he believes it is so important.

Video resources for KS3

In this short film, a teacher reads from Shelf Life: Stories by the Book by YA writer Gary Paulsen to help explain the power of books.

Video resources for KS4

In this talking head, actress Drew Barrymore, famous for the film ET, explains how reading changed her life at the age of 14.

Video resources for KS5


In this clip, YouTuber, influencer, university undergraduate, and passionate literature lover Jack Edwards outlines the books that changed his life.

Downloadable resources

Downloadable our Summer Reading Challenge posters in portrait and landscape format that can be enlarged up to A3 size, printed and used on school websites, social media, intranets, featured in newsletters and utilised in many other situations with a Creative Commons license. Click below to view and download the posters.

Sharing online and spreading the word

Share on social media using the #SRLchallenge2022 hashtag and follow how other schools are using the reading challenge. View #SRLchallenge2022 on Twitter, #SRLchallenge2022 on Instagram, #SRLchallenge2022 on Facebook and #SRLchallenge2022 on Tiktok. We’ll like, retweet, share and feature a selection each week throughout the summer and early autumn.

If you found our summer reading challenge ideas guide useful, you might also want to look at our picks of the best books coming out in summer 2022, our monthly school book club suggestions and our list of 20 young adult books to read during the summer.



About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is an experienced teacher and educational consultant who taught for 20 years in primary and secondary schools, including Woodleigh School in North Yorkshire, where he was Head of English and ran a 4000 book prep school library for pupils aged 3-13. He now reviews books for children and teens. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin