The First Minister’s Reading Challenge aims to build on the work already taking place in schools across the country to encourage children to read widely, explore a range of books and develop a love of reading. The main focus of the Challenge is to encourage reading for pleasure and support schools, libraries and communities to build reading cultures. The programme is delivered by Scottish Book Trust, funded by the Scottish Government.
The Challenge launched for P4-7 pupils in 2016 and primary schools in every Local Authority took part in this first year. Scottish Book Trust received over 300 creative and inspiring entries for the inaugural awards and the First Minister presented prizes to the winners at a Celebration Event in June 2017. In August 2017, the Challenge expanded to include all primary pupils from P1-7. In September 2018, the Challenge expanded to include secondary school pupils, libraries and community groups.
Following a tender process, Scottish Book Trust commissioned an independent evaluation of the first year of the programme from Blake Stevenson. The evaluation report took in teacher, parent and pupil views, as well as detailed case studies. Overall findings were very positive with the report concluding that “the First Minister’s Reading Challenge has been overwhelmingly positively received by teachers, pupils and their parents” and “the Reading Challenge has delivered on all of the primary outcomes it set out to deliver … and in doing so has significantly increased the number of children and young people engaged in reading for pleasure across Scotland”.
The evaluation was considered by the First Minister’s Reading Challenge Advisory Group, which made recommendations to the First Minister, based on the conclusions in the report, to consider when taking the Challenge forward in future years. These recommendations included the expansion announced by the First Minister on 19 March – a national roll-out of the Challenge to secondary schools, libraries and community groups in 2018/19 to allow further avenues for children across Scotland to benefit from the transformative effects of reading for pleasure.