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Story Lab is Go!

As you may well be aware local libraries run a summer reading scheme every year, which encourages children to actually pick up a book or two or three…over the long summer hols. This year is no exception, with a superbly packaged scheme named ‘Story Lab‘.

A trailer gives a brief but lively insight about the scheme, introducing this year’s theme which is broadly based upon the Olympics, with bronze, silver and gold medals to achieve along the way. It is completely free (one of my favourite words in the holidays) and a real ‘celebration of the imagination’.* Children are encouraged to read a minimum of just 6 books over the course of the break, collecting ‘medals’ and secret codes as they go. With each secret code comes a cool little animation which can be unlocked on the super-duper interactive website. What’s clever here is that the children need to go to the library for the codes, meaning that there is a secondary purpose for visiting. In an ideal world a huge range of free glorious books would be enough, but the reality is not quite so idyllic.

So let me tell you a bit about the website itself. Now, I’m no tech wizard but even I can work it, so it’s pretty user friendly. In a few simple steps the children log in, in order to create their own personal profile. There are many different strands to the site, with a place to log your reading habits, review books, blog in a child-friendly chat room and play some games too. The graphics are bright and inviting, with a great range of styles to suit a wide age range. From cartoon-like avatars to images like this:

As well as all of that there is a ‘book sorter’ where children can input simple data about themselves and, hey presto, a recommended reading list appears on the screen. I thought that this was a great idea, as it can sometimes be tricky to know what to choose, especially as children get older and have opinions of their own!

There’s a competition page too. I am usually a bit dubious about these, as they sometimes feel a bit flat, but the Stoy Lab competition is far from it. Seven amazing authors, including Julia Donaldson, Malorie Blackman and Marcus Sedgwick, have provided the Story Lab website with the beginning of a short story. The children are invited to finish the story of their choosing, with some pretty cool prizes up for grabs. Anything that encourages children to write is good as far as I’m concerned and the fact that you could end up completing the work of a favourite author is very enticing.

And that’s not all. There’s also a ‘News’ page jam packed with news, blogs and messages from authors and illustrators. Very inspiring and maybe even aspirational for some.

I shall finish with five fascinating facts about the Summer Reading Challenge:

1. 23 different countries around the world are joining in with Story Lab, thanks to the British Council.

2. Working with the RNIB, the Reading Challenge has created super size materials with extra large print, available for children who are visually impaired or children who have visually impaired parents/carers.

3. The RNIB also loans books in Braille, giant print (24 point type) and audio, for children and young people aged 5 upwards. Books are delivered by post free of charge and children can borrow six books at a time.

4. Audio books count too! As long as you’re borrowing them from the library, they all count.

5. Everybody gets a certificate.

Have you joined your family up yet? Go on, you know you want to!

*Stolen from the trailer!


The independent children's bookshop and tuition centre in the heart of Brentwood, Essex. Owned and run by Mr Frog & Mrs Chicken (happily married book-nerds), with the sole aim of bringing high quality books and tuition to our community.