Column by Rachael Hunt, South Gloucestershire Council's cabinet member with responsibility for libraries.

I’m so excited that the Summer Reading Challenge is back this year. My daughter and I enjoy spending time together with books and I’m very proud that our libraries are taking such an active role in encouraging primary school aged children to take part and hopefully develop a lifelong love of books.

Running for the past 23 years, with a different theme each year, the Summer Reading Challenge reaches over 700,000 children across the UK. This year the challenge is called The Gadgeteers. Libraries and organisers, The Reading Agency, have partnered with the Science Museum Group for a science and innovation themed challenge, to spark children’s curiosity about the world around them and celebrate how the imagination plays an important role in reading and the sciences.

The challenge is a great way to support literacy over the school holidays when it can sometimes dip. Why not read a book for a while if you need a break from the [hopefully] warm sun? It supports children to become more independent readers, maintaining and improving confidence over the summer break, which they can take back to school in September. It also supports positive mental wellbeing, boosting self-esteem.

Here in South Gloucestershire the challenge is the perfect opportunity for families to explore our local libraries, especially as all Reception and Year 1 pupils have now received their own library card, as part of an initiative in this year’s budget designed to improve literacy and help children develop a lifelong love of reading.

The challenge runs until 10 September and is completely free, which we know is important at a time when families are struggling with rising costs. It’s also very easy to join. Children simply sign up at one of our local libraries, read six books over the summer holidays and receive stickers to complete a special collector’s poster.

There are also lots of incentives to encourage young readers to participate such as free swim vouchers and brilliant books.

So, why not pop in to one of our libraries to find out more, sign up, and borrow your first book?