THE Summer Reading Challenge got underway at Exeter Library today with a special event for local school children at the official reopening of the library by The Duchess of Cornwall.

Celebrating the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge, children from St Leonard’s primary school were treated to an inspiring drawing activity with Sarah McIntyre, the award-winning illustrator of this year’s challenge Mythical Maze.

Each year the Summer Reading Challenge uses a new theme to inject fun and creativity into reading and Sarah McIntyre introduces children to the exciting world of mythology.

In the session the children got the chance to explore the Mythical Maze and to create their own characters inspired by old myths and legends which they then presented to The Duchess of Cornwall, along with a 2014 Summer Reading Challenge activity pack.

The Summer Reading Challenge is the UK’s biggest promotion of children’s reading, run by The Reading Agency with public libraries. Last year it reached 810,000 children aged 4-11 with inspiration to read six books over the summer holidays.

Last year, 5,684 teenagers volunteered with libraries to support the programme in their community.

To complete the challenge children sign up at their local library, receive a Mythical Maze poster, then find their way around a labyrinth of fantastical creatures from the world of legend and mythology, reading books and collecting stickers along the way.

It’s a highlight of the holidays for thousands of children and families and libraries right across England and Wales are currently inspiring children to sign up.

Reading for pleasure has been shown to be pivotal to life chances. Research shows the Summer Reading Challenge increases children’s enjoyment of reading. It builds confidence and independent reading, helping prevent the summer reading dip in children’s literacy levels during the long break from school.

Exeter Library reopened in May following an 18-month refurbishment programme. Today at the library The Duchess of Cornwall also met the Memory Reading Group, Heritage services and the Community Enabling Team and visited the Business Information Hub and the ‘Fab Lab’ the first digital workshop space to open in a UK library. Her Royal Highness is Patron of the National Literacy Trust, Book Trust and First Story, all of which promote literacy in young people.

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency says: “Exeter Library reopening after a wonderful transformation has been a cause of enormous celebration – locally and nationally. I loved my visit and it is thrilling to see Exeter library sharing the benefits of the Summer Reading Challenge with the Duchess of Cornwall today.

"This fantastic programme which is developed and delivered in partnership with librarians across the UK is designed to inspire children to keep reading during the long summer break. We know from our own research just how much fun families and children get out of taking part in the Challenge; this year we think it is going to be more exciting than ever.

"Fantastical creatures from myths and legends have been designed by Sarah McIntyre to accompany everyone on their reading journey. What we hope is that everyone who takes part this summer really will find out that everything changes when we read.”

Ciara Eastell, Head of Devon County Council’s Library service, says: “We’re delighted to welcome the Duchess of Cornwall and Sarah McIntyre to Exeter Library. The Summer Reading Challenge is a highlight of the year for many local children and their families and we can’t thank Sarah enough for reminding us just how fun reading can be.

"Having the support of the Duchess of Cornwall today sends out a powerful message – that libraries offer fantastic free, inclusive reading experiences – a vital ingredient in building literacy.”