Keep the kids busy over the summer

Georgina Atwell
Opinion - Children Monday, 15 July 2019

Georgina Atwell introduces Toppsta's Reading Bingo scheme

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.

My goal for Toppsta - now the UK's largest children's book review community with over 45,000 reviews - has always been to get kids excited about books, rather than seeing reading as homework or hard work. Our website is a vibrant community of readers, making peer-to-peer recommendations, 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.

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 them? It sounded like a winning combination, and for busy working parents, a great way to keep the kids busy over the summer.

After several months talking to children and parents about the kinds of books they'd like to see on the bingo card and the sorts of activities they'd like to try for fun, I got to work mapping out the card. 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 schoolchildren entertained throughout the summer holidays.

The competition works like this:

• Download and print the Toppsta Summer Reading Bingo Pack
• Find the Bingo Card page and discover your challenges
• Read SIX books in these categories:
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 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, where they break up before schools in England) could share it in the end-of-year wind down. 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.

We also have a handy book review template in case children would like to write more comprehensive reviews. 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, and we have two prizes up for grabs. It's the first time we've offered a non-book prize for a competition but I know just how much children love this shop so I thought it might encourage more reluctant readers to give the competition a try.

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.

Georgina Atwell is founder of Toppsta:

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