CHILDREN booked a summer full of adventure when they signed up for the annual reading challenge this weekend.

About 400 parents and youngsters turned out to North Swindon Library to see children’s writer Neil Griffiths launch the Story Lab summer reading challenge, aimed at encouraging children to continue reading outside of the school year.

The challenge requires children to read six books throughout the holiday period, as those taking part are given a three-dimensional lab and a set of incentives to collect as they read, with a certificate and medal for everyone who successfully completes the challenge.

Last year, children read 10,408 books through the summer as part of the challenge.

This year, for an Olympic challenge, Swindon Council’s library service wants children to read 12,000 books between them.

At the launch event Neil, with the help of a few volunteers, performed his latest offering, Animal Antics, which is an Olympic-themed tale about animals taking part in many of the sports spectators will see at this year’s London Games.

The local author, who was the headteacher of Westlea Primary School for 13 years, said he was delighted at the turnout and hoped the challenge would encourage youngsters to keep reading beyond the classroom.

He said: “Obviously being from Swindon I am keen to promote the town’s libraries and particularly this national initiative, the summer reading challenge.

“When children have six weeks off they do regress in terms of their reading skills – it is a long time to be off at such a vital time in their development.

“By launching it with some of my stories I’m hoping it captures their imagination and it was fantastic to see so many people come see what was going on.”

Cath Smith, 41, of Purton Stoke, brought her daughter Amy along and said they both enjoyed it.

“It’s a fantastic way to encourage kids to read and gets them using the library,” she said.

Seven-year-old Amy, who attends St Sampson’s Junior School, added: “I like reading fiction – mainly about fairies. At the moment I’m reading The Tempest.”

When children have read one book they will be invited to visit the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, which is putting on a story trail linked to the reading challenge.

And once they have read three books they will receive a two for the price of one voucher for Pitch and Putt, Crazy Golf or ice skating in Swindon.

There will also be a library card amnesty and fines will be waived on children’s library cards during the months of July and August and the challenge runs until September 8.