Reading for pleasure is a great leveler: It's proven to be more important for children's cognitive development than their parents' level of education and a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background. So, every time you read with a child you are improving their life chances - as well as introducing them to a whole host of new ideas, new worlds and new ambitions.
We should therefore welcome any initiative that encourages children to pick up a book in their free time, and I wholeheartedly support EasyJet's 'Flybaries', mini book collections in 147 aeroplanes designed to keep children entertained on flights. Dame Jacqueline Wilson who chose the books, has been a great supporter of our children's reading programmes and she recognises, the long summer holidays are the perfect opportunity for children to get absorbed in a book.
However, not all families fly abroad over the summer and it is important that parents and carers across the UK know they needn't spend a penny to get their children into a good book, this summer, or all year round. They can go to their local library.
Libraries provide exciting and inspiring reading activities throughout the whole year, from parent and toddler groups to coding clubs. Every summer they welcome hundreds of thousands of children through their doors to participate in a reading scheme which, as well as being completely free, is great fun.
The Summer Reading Challenge, running at 98% of libraries in England, Wales and Scotland, is designed to encourage children to read for pleasure over the long summer break, whether they are going on holiday or not. Many families stock up on books before they go away because contrary to popular belief you can take books on holiday with you. The Book Sorter, which has been created with children and currently has 600,000 books on the site is great at helping families decide which are the best books for them
Libraries are inestimably important in ensuring that reading remains free and open to people of all ages, and that everyone can access the information and resources they need. The Challenge shows that they are a hugely valuable resource for families, attracting three quarters of a million children into libraries each year.
This year's Challenge, which The Reading Agency runs in partnership with public libraries, is called Animal Agents and is illustrated by Tony Ross, who was the most borrowed illustrator in UK libraries last year. As well as the core Challenge for 4-11 year-olds, many libraries also run a mini Challenge for younger children and offer volunteering opportunities for 13-24 year-olds over the summer. So spread the word and encourage families you know to use the library this summer and all year-round.