AN annual reading initiative will be hosted virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Summer Reading Challenge in Southend is held to encourage youngsters to pick up a book.

This year’s competition will be run via a website where participants can unlock digital rewards for reading and complete other activities.

Southend Council’s business, culture and tourism boss Kevin Robinson said: “The summer and winter reading challenges are a great way of encouraging children to pick up some books through the summer holidays.

“Although this year we are living in unprecedented times, we recognised the importance this project has for young people’s wellbeing and development, so I’m delighted to see the event running again this year, albeit completely online.”

Children taking part in the challenge can use their library card to download audio and e-books.

A new click and collect service has also been set up to allow children and parents to pick up hard copies of books.

Councillor Robinson added: “Our new click and collect service will enable parents and children to pick out their own books, or even have some suggested by our expert librarians.

“I wish everyone involved all the best throughout the challenge, and hope the children continue to foster a lifelong love of reading.”

Anyone wishing to sign up to the challenge should register at

Parents will need to make an account first before signing their child up.

The challenge runs until Saturday, September 12.

For more information, email