Award-winning Swindon author and illustrator Steve Antony officially launched the Summer Reading Challenge at Old Town Library.
Steve, whose best-known works include The Queen's Hat and the Mr Panda series, is Swindon Libraries Children's Patron and a long-term champion of libraries and reading who makes regular visits to schools.
Swindon Libraries and Information Service delivers the Summer Reading Challenge each year, a national initiative developed by the Reading Agency to help combat the dip in reading that can happen among children during the summer holidays.
Each year has a new theme, and this year The Reading Agency is teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund to present Wild World Heroes, a nature-themed reading challenge.
Steve has created an art competition called 'You Can!' and children who register for the Summer Reading Challenge will receive a competition sheet in their packs.
He said: "I think it's really important for children and families to know, firstly, that their libraries have so much on offer. There are so many things that they can do, even during the pandemic.
"But it's also important to encourage children to discover the joy of reading. That's really important. Some children perhaps associate books with school work or as something they are told they have to do, whereas if they discover for themselves how much joy they can get from reading, then they will want to read more and read more and read more.
"What that does is open doors. They are able to escape into books - and I believe that the more you read the more confident you become in how to express yourself."
People will be able to register online for the challenge from 10 July by visiting https://srcswindon.wordpress.com.
Staff will then be in touch to visit their library to pick up a Summer Reading Challenge pack.
The website has plenty of activities for people to get involved in and will include book recommendations from volunteers, schools and library staff.
There will also be information about a new initiative from volunteers called Swindon Nature Watch, in which families can record wildlife they spot around Swindon and have the information plotted on to Google Maps for others to explore.
When children register with their local library they will collect a special Summer Reading Challenge bag with items including a nature trail from the National Literacy Trust, a special Swindon Libraries Reading Bingo Activity and an official Summer Reading Challenge certificate.
Old Town Librarian Deborah Lamb said: "We have some wonderful volunteers the children can chat to about what they've been reading, and it absolutely does not matter whether a child is an amazing reader or a struggling reader. It does not matter what reading ability they have.
"They can take part in this challenge, they can collect their stickers, and hopefully at the end they'll get their medal and their certificate.
"I know from schools that they really like the children to take part as well, because statistics say that children's reading and learning can dip a little bit over the summer holidays."
Outreach Librarian Debbie Jackson said: "The Summer Reading Challenge first launched in 1999 and it's become a much-loved tradition in libraries across the UK.
"Each year about 700,000 children participate across the UK."
Cllr Tim Swinyard, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Levelling Up, Communities and Place, said: “It’s great to see the Summer Reading Challenge return to Swindon for another year.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for young readers across the town to get involved and experience some amazing stories that can only be told on paper.”
For a parent or guardian to register a child all they need is an active library account, which can be checked at https://bit.ly/SLISLogin
If they are not already registered, they can sign up for no charge at https://bit.ly/SLISJoinLibrary