Did you know that the biggest dog in the Whole Wide World is a Great Dane. Named Zeus. Or that the smallest dog, likewise in the WWW (as opposed to the www) is a chihuahua? Named Milly. Did you even know that the Largest
Pizza Ever Made fed no fewer than 100 people? It is not recorded whether any of the hundred Greedy Pizza Eaters asked for seconds. I imagine they were all people, like me, who were Always Thinking About Their Stomachs.
I fear that you are going to be hearing much more of a similar ilk from me over the next seven weeks. I hope this won't be boring; as you know I do like the Daily Blog to come over All Educational every so often. The theme of this year's Summer Reading
Challenge, launched today in local libraries across the country, is Record Breakers. I am a volunteer helping a host of 4 -11 year olds to read six books between now and 12th September and I have lots of goodies to hand out along the way. Judging by the number
of kiddies signing up and taking possession of their Glow In The Dark wristbands this morning alone, it's going to be a Record-Breaking Summer. I do hope the wristbands really do glow in the dark. I have not been able to consumer test them myself and would
hate to be the cause of any disappointment.
We volunteers have a new name this summer. Last year, we were called "Reading Activists." This year, according to the wording on my rather fetching (?) red tee-shirt,
I am a "Reading Hack." Now, correct me if I'm wrong but most of the definitions of the word "hack" are somewhat derogatory. Am I a plodder? Or a worn-out horse? The only possible explanation I have arrived at is that a "hacker" can get inside a computer to
make it spill all its secrets - perhaps that's our role but with books instead of computers? It seems a little, well, obscure to me. Can I go back, I wonder, to being an Activist?
Because today was the Launch
Day, there were lots of challenges for our youngsters to try. One was a hula hoop challenge. So scared was I that somebody might ask me to demonstrate my prowess with a hula hoop, that I took refuge in being the Official Timer. I had a stop watch strung round
my neck and everything. Plus a whistle, though I didn't realise at first that this would have been useful in signalling the start and finish of the hula-hooping. Instead I just did a count-down which worked well enough. Had I started multi-tasking, both counting
and whistling at one and the same time, I fear that my level of accuracy might well have diminished. As well as hula-hooping, there was a cup stacking challenge and a Rubik's cube challenge. I steadfastly kept away from both challenges; it wasn't my job to
show off, you know.
There was also the Treasure Hunt - searching around the Children's Library for all the characters in this year's Challenge. My fellow volunteer Poppy was excellent at encouraging those
finding the hunt difficult by calling out when they were getting warmer, or colder. It's her first year as a volunteer but I venture to say that Poppy is a Natural.
The challenge to the young participants,
as I said before, is to read six books between now and the end of the school holidays. These can be picture books, story books, audio books. Fiction or non-fiction. Some parents encourage their off-spring to read all six books at once which seems a pity to
me because where's the fun in that? Plus the whole idea behind the Challenge is to keep youngsters reading for pleasure over the long days of the summer holiday. Many littl'uns drop back a bit if they don't keep reading - and it is a long holiday. We volunteers
- hacks, activists, whatever we are - are not allowed to suggest it might be better not to read all six books all at once or, heaven forefend, that maybe the children might be reading books below their reading age, rather than challenging themselves. We are
there to be cheerleaders, so cheer we will. Unreservedly.
One lad has selected a Top Gear book, liberally illustrated with photographs of Jeremy Clarkson and Co. I ask him which car he would buy when he was
old enough and he showed me the photo of a red Ferrari. This is a Boy Who Knows His Own Mind. I think the BBC should sign him up forthwith. I tell him that I hope I will be on the Record Breakers Desk when he returns next week so we can continue our conversation.
No fewer than sixty children had signed up by the time I left the library to catch the bus home. My three hour stint had flown by. I've signed my life away for several more sessions over the next few weeks when I shall
doubtless discover many more fascinating facts with which to (i) intrigue you; (ii) inform you; but hopefully not (iii) bore you.
How I love the Summer Reading Challenge!