Summer Reading Challenge

Georgina Atwell, Founder of Toppsta, shares why she’s hoping for a “Full House” of books this summer

At Toppsta we share the FCBG’s passion for getting children reading for pleasure and sharing their book recommendations. Often, reading is seen as homework and it can be hard to get kids excited about books, particularly when they have limited access to books or just don’t know where to start.

So I’m always on the lookout for fun ways to get kids reading. Since having my own children, I’ve seen the benefits of reading regularly but it can be hard to fit it all in with school work, after school activities and the lure of screen time. But if we can make it more fun and more sociable then we’re half way there.
We do that in a variety of ways on our website https://toppsta.com. It’s become a vibrant community of readers, making peer-to-peer recommendations and it’s thrilling to see that we have over 45,000 reviews but our new reviewers often come to the website through our free book giveaways. I can see that the kids love the thrill of entering a competition, the joy of winning, and then the anticipation as they wait for the book to be delivered. By the time the book arrives, the child is already excited about reading it. Then, when they review the book, their review is published on the website for everyone to see and there’s no judgement about how fast they read the book, whether they liked it or not, or even if other people like their review. There’s no “Like” button as such and that provides an open and welcoming environment for children.

So when a friend mentioned how her kids play “Reading Bingo” during the summer holidays my ears perked up. A fun way to try new books, a satisfying list to tick off and a prize to motivate even the most reluctant of readers – what’s not to like?

I talked to a lot of parents about what they’d like to see in the pack and it was clear that variety was the key. Once I’d established six book categories, I made a list of books I thought would work well and asked publishers to submit their suggestions too. The result is a 12-page Toppsta Summer Reading Bingo pack, bursting with book recommendations, which is free to download from our website and the perfect resource for keeping primary school children entertained throughout the summer holidays.

The competition works like this:

  • A picture book
  • A funny book
  • An illustrated book
  • A book about adventure or magic
  • A non-fiction or reference book
  • A gripping story

And then you have some other fun things to tick off too, like…

  • Read a book in the dark with a torch
  • Read on a Wednesday
  • Read outside in a den

Once you have crossed off all the boxes, write down the name of each book you have read on the lines provided and either email it to us georgina@toppsta.com or send a copy to:

Georgina Atwell, 266 Banbury Road, PO Box 272 (Toppsta), Oxford, OX2 7DL

We released the pack at the beginning of July so that teachers (particularly in Scotland who break up before schools in England) could share it in the end-of-year wind down and we were so chuffed to see these pictures from East Bierley Primary School in Yorkshire who got their whole school involved. We’ve also added in a couple of fun extra bingo cards for Roald Dahl, who is one of the most popular authors on the website and Dork Diaries as we have a huge fanbase for this series.

For those children who want to write a longer review, we have a handy book review template available to download from our website. I find that sitting down to write a book review is a great way to find your next book. If a child can communicate why they did or didn’t enjoy a book, it’s so much easier to find them something else to read, as well as being a great way to increase their descriptive vocabulary.

Every complete entry we receive will be entered into a competition to win a Smiggle voucher worth £50 but obviously the more valuable prize is the sheer enjoyment of reading for pleasure.

We’ve had a great reaction so far – over 1,000 downloads in the first 48 hours so I can’t wait to see the entries when they come in and see which books the children have read. If you’d like to take part, it’s easy to join in, just download the pack (bit.ly/ToppstaKidsBingo) and get reading!

The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.

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