During the summer holidays, the libraries (I assume it's a national, rather than a local thing) run a reading challenge for the littlies to keep reading even when they're not at school. The general premise is to read six books during the six weeks of the summer holiday, and after they've read a book, they go into the library to tell a reading challenge volunteer about the book, in exchange for stickers and bookmarks and other bits and pieces. Once they've read all six books, they attend a presentation where they receive a gold medal and a certificate.
It's so lovely to see children who enjoy reading and get excited when they come in to talk about their books. In a world of computer games and reality television, it is refreshing to realise that there are some people who aren't afraid to read, and that there may be some hope for the future!
I've volunteered for the past three summers, and it has been such a satisfying experience. I remember doing the reading challenge when I was little, and I found out today that the reading challenge has been going for 35 years, which is amazing. Let's hope that it can go on for at least another 35 years, before the fake-tanned, duck-face brigade takes over!
So today was the first presentation (there has to be two presentations because there were so many children; today was for surnames A-M) for those who read their six books over six weeks. It was so nice to see how happy and proud all the children were for completing the challenge, and how encouraging the parents were.
Lowestoft Library also ran a story writing competition. Now, being a writer, I love it when anyone wants to write. Nurturing creativity and imagination is so important in children. As we get older, we tell ourselves that we can't do something, or it's too silly, or no-one will like it. But children are fearless, and they will try pretty much anything as they have no concept of consequence. And I admire that.
Throughout the six weeks, a lot of children submitted stories for the competition and I read them all. My favourite was about a king who turned into a banana; but there were stories about fairies and monsters and rabbits and murder (yes, a murder story from a nine year old!) and the Olympics, and everything in between. Some had put in the extra effort by drawing pictures as well. Thankfully I didn't have to choose the prize winners, as they were, in the main, of a very high standard.
I was asked to present the prizes for the stories. All the children who won either first, second or third prize were genuinely surprised when I called their names. They were confident enough to write a story for us to read, but none of them guessed that they would win. And their prizes were pretty decent too. I should have entered a story and pretended that I was seven years old. They won a certificate and books and bookmarks and chocolate. Books and chocolate. Is there anything better?! I don't think so.
Next Sunday is for surnames O-Z so I will be giving out some more prizes to winning story writers. Perhaps in a few years I'll have some of these children joining my teen writers. Here's hoping.