The Big Friendly Read: A Summer Reading Challenge

I’ve mentioned before that all three of our girls are voracious readers, especially Ella.  We visit our local library most Saturdays, where she’ll choose an average of ten books to take out (her record is fourteen!) and the other two will choose four or five each.  As soon as we’re home they dive into them and I don’t hear a peep out of them for a good couple of hours – it’s bliss!  And then by the time Saturday rolls around again they’ve read them all throughout the week and are ready to choose another set.

I love that they love the library so much.  My local library was always my most favourite place to go as a kid and I’d spend hours in there, scouring the shelves for a Nancy Drew or Sweet Valley High book that I hadn’t read at least three times over.  In the days before the internet I’d go there to do my homework, hefting big, old, dusty reference books off the orderly numbered shelves and thudding them heavily onto the table, where I’d pore over them searching for the information I needed.  I loved the quiet and the stillness, the only sound a slight murmuring conversation or the occasional ‘thunk’ of the book stamp as the librarian (who knew me by name because I was in there so often!) checked out another book for a fellow reader.

Now of course libraries are very different places – they are far more digitally interactive now with self-serve machines for borrowing and returning books and usually a small room of computers somewhere too. And that’s absolutely how it should be because if they didn’t move with the times I think they’d end up obsolete, which would be a very sad thing indeed.  Wha has remained the same however is the community feel and the comfortable atmosphere – anyone and everyone is welcome without judgment and that seems to be a rare thing nowadays.  I’d even go so far as to say that libraries can save lives after an experience I had last year.

Anyway… yesterday we paid our routine weekly visit to the library as usual.  So far, so normal.  But when we walked in through the sliding doors that open with a hiss, which the girls like to pretend they do with magic, Ella let out a huge gasp.  “Mummy!  LOOK!”.

And there was a table decorated with Quentin Blake illustrations from Roald Dahl’s books and a big sign saying ‘The Big Friendly Read – sign up here’.

We’d noticed the posters the week before and Ella has been pestering me ever since to go back – I’d completely forgotten that the launch was so soon.  Quickly the girls returned their old books, chose some more and we eagerly sat down in the chairs and filled out the forms, Ella almost beside herself with excitement.


The books that the girls borrowed from the library (yes, this is just one visit!)

If you haven’t heard about it yet, The Big Friendly Read is a Summer Reading Challenge that’s being rolled out as part of Roald Dahl’s centenary celebrations.  It’s designed to help encourage children to both read more and visit their local library more often.  The challenge is to read one library book per week throughout the summer holidays, and, once completed, you are awarded with a medal and a certificate.


The Big Friendly Read: Summer Reading Challenge pack

Once we’d signed up and been given our packs, we sped home to have a look through them.  Each pack contains a record-keeper (where you write down the title and author, then rate each book you read out of 1, 2 or 3 stars), information about how to get involved online, and three cards depicting various illustrations from Roald Dahl books.  We quickly discovered that some of them are scratch and sniff, which astonished, delighted and disgusted the girls in equal measure!  On our next visit to the library we’ll receive three more (provided we take out that number of books as a minimum) to add to our collection.


Mimi putting her Quentin Blake illustration cards in the slots of her record-keeper

Our library is also holding various Roald Dahl related craft and storytelling events each week throughout the summer holidays.  Sadly I think we either have plans on those dates or I’m working, but we’re definitely going to make sure we’re at the big party being held in September in celebration of completing the challenge, where the girls will receive their medals and certificates for taking part.

It reminds me of the many summers I spent doing sponsored reads to raise money for charity – those who didn’t know me too well and sponsored me £1 per book always got a bit of a surprise when I asked them for their kind and generous donation as it was always far more than they’d anticipated!


Ella with her record-keeper!


The section for writing down the titles of the books they’ve read


Lola writing her name on her record-keeper – essential so we don’t get them muddled up!


The girls’ three record-keepers, just waiting to be filled with information about the books they’ve read over the summer

The girls are really excited to be taking part, and I’m excited to watch them discover new authors and grow their love of reading even more over the summer.

There are plenty of other Roald Dahl themed events taking place throughout the country this year in honour of his centenary as well as The Big Friendly Read.  A fellow blogger wrote this ultimate list of over one hundred Roald Dahl inspired places to visit and things to do.  It’s an incredible resource and I’ve bookmarked the post – we’ll definitely be trying to visit at least a few of them.

Roald Dahl played such a big part in my childhood – James and the Giant Peach, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have always been my firm favourites – so I’m thrilled that the girls are developing the same love for his wonderful storytelling.  We’re also really looking forward to when The BFG comes out in cinemas at the end of the month (hoping that Lola’s not too little – she’s really sensitive and gets scared quite easily, though she’s seen the original animated version on DVD so I’ve got my fingers crossed that she’ll be ok!)

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  • Oh wow, Nancy Drew books. I think I read them all when I was a teenager but I had forgotten all about them. We were planning on signing up to the challenge on Saturday but we had a party that lasted most of the day! Thanks for the info on the packs, my little ones love scratch and sniff books; they will be pleased. My eldest is just getting into the Enid Blyton mystery series, I hope he will read some Roald Dahl too. Your littles sound like fantastic readers, especially Ella, 14 books in a week is some record to beat!
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    • Reply July 18, 2016

      Chloe Ridgway

      I LOVED Nancy Drew books! I’ve tried to find them for my girls but can’t find them in any bookshops anywhere – I think I’m going to have to trawl the charity shops. They love all of Enid Blyton’s books too – there are so many wonderful books out there aren’t there? I’m sure your boy will get into Roald Dahl – they’re so appealing to little one’s imaginations aren’t they?

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