Toppsta Summer Reading Bingo: A Guest Post

I may read children’s books (as every adult should), but I write my reviews of them for adults – interested librarians, schoolteachers, parents, grandparents, carers and those within the industry. The idea is that they’ll purchase them for the school library, or their child or grandchild, and hopefully recommend to others (and even sneak a read themselves).

For other reviewers and websites, it’s the children they wish to attract. Toppsta is one such website, hosting reviews by children for children. Here, Georgina Atwell, Founder of Toppsta, shares how the website works and introduces the Toppsta Summer Reading Bingo pack.

Georgina Atwell photo

Georgina Atwell and children

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. But if we can make it more fun and more sociable then we’re half way there.

We do that in a variety of ways on our website https://toppsta.com. With over 45,000 reviews it’s become 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.

Then, when they review the book, their review is published on the website for everyone to see and there’s no judgement about how fast they read the book, whether they liked it or not, or even if other people like their review. There’s no “Like” button as such and that provides an open and welcoming environment for children.

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 as a busy working parent, a great way to keep the kids busy over the summer.

I talked to a lot of parents about what they’d like to see in the pack and it was clear that variety was the key. 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 school children entertained throughout the summer holidays.

The competition works like this:

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 georgina@toppsta.com 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 who 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.

For those children who want to write a longer review, we have a handy book review template available to download from our website. 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. If you’d like to take part, it’s easy to join in, just download the pack and get reading!

With thanks to Georgina Atwell. Let’s encourage children’s reading over the summer. Look out on Wednesday 31st July for MinervaReads summer book recommendations.