Executive Summary

The South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenge (the Challenge) has continued for 17 consecutive years and continues to attract strong participation and support, thereby contributing to increased reading engagement by students.

  • A new record for the total number of students from all 3 education sectors who completed the Challenge in 2020 was set at 133,571, an incease of 1,185 completions on 2019 (see Figure 1).
  • 49% [i] of all South Australian students participate in the the Challenge.
  • 96% of South Australian schools participated, indicating that it is a highly valued program.
  • The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) were not conducted in 2020 due to COVID-19 hence the relationship with PRC participation cannot be reported.
  • Over 1.6 million books were read by students completing the Challenge in 2020, with over 21 million books read as part of the Challenge in South Australia since 2004.

 For more information about the program, visit www.prc.sa.edu.au.

[i] Full-time equivalent students from ABS report 4221.0 Schools, Australia, 2020. Total students for 2020 were 272,756.


Entering its seventeeth year in 2020, the Premier’s Reading Challenge (the Challenge) is a literacy engagement program that challenges South Australian students from reception to year 12, across all 3 education sectors, to read 12 books by early September each year.  Many schools incorporate the Challenge into their whole-of-school approach to literacy.

A different certificate or medal is awarded to students in progressive order, based on the number of years the Challenge has been completed. Students are able to gain 14 awards, 1 award for each year of schooling.

The program was initiated in South Australia in 2004 to encourage students to read more books for enjoyment and to improve literacy levels. Some other states and territories in Australia also conduct a premier’s or chief minister’s reading challenge or similar program, with these outcomes in mind.

In March 2020, as COVID-19 restrictions came into place in South Australia, remote learning became a feature of school life for many students. The Premier’s Reading Challenge office surveyed schools at the onset of COVID-19 and determined that,  albeit a guide only, it appeared that the Challenge would have approximately a 70% completion rate of the previous year, or about 90,000 students finishing the PRC in 2020.

Many families made the choice to have children study at home in the early stages of the virus. As a result, the Premier’s Reading Challenge office made a significant change to the guidelines for the Challenge. Students could read any 12 books and were not restricted to the PRC booklists. This decision addressed the concern that families would find it difficult to access public spaces such as school and community libraries.

The eventual final completion figure of 133,571 was testament to the hard work of Premier’s Reading Challenge coordinators, teachers, parents and of course, to the number of students to complete the Challenge.

The budget allocation for conducting the program in 2020 was $347,000. With completion by 133,571 students, this equates to approximately $2.60 per student.


What the Data Says

Participants 2004 to now

A new record for the total number of students from all 3 education sectors who completed the Challenge in 2020 was set at 133,571, an incease of 1,185 completions on 2019. There has been a steady increase in the number of participants completing the PRC since its inception in 2004.


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Figure 1 - Number of students completing the Challenge annually

Summary of data table
Sector completions

In 2020, 133,571 students completed the Challenge, from 96% of all schools in South Australia. Students were comprised of (see Figure 1a):

  • 89,754 from government schools (DE)
  • 21,346 from Catholic schools (CESA)
  • 22,471 students from independent schools and home-educated or individual students(AISSA).
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Figure 1a - Number of students completing the Challenge in each educational sector from 2004 to 2020

Summary of data table
Senior students

The Challenge was originally intended to encourage reception to year 9 students to read more books for enjoyment and to improve literacy levels, but as more students reaching the senior years wished to continue with the Challenge, it was extended to include their participation.

In 2020, 1,193 students in years 10, 11 and 12 (2%[i] of senior secondary students) chose to continue completing the Challenge, which is a similar number to the previous year (1,262). Secondary school students continue to be selective in participating in the Challenge (see Figure 2).

[i] Full-time equivalent students from ABS report 4221.0 Schools, Australia, 2020. Total Senior secondary students for 2020 were 58,506.

Figure 2 – Number of senior school students completing the Challenge from 2015 to 2020

Summary of data table
Aboriginal students

The Challenge has an emphasis on encouraging all schools and students to participate and reflects government priorities to improve the educational outcomes for Aboriginal learners as well as specifically contributing to the Aboriginal Education Strategy 2019-2029.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 4221.0 Schools, Australia, 2020 report indicates that there were 13,626 Aboriginal students in South Australia in 2020. A total of 4,986 Aboriginal students completed the Challenge (36.6%). This was a 3.9% increase from 2019 (see Figure 3).

Pipalyatjara Anangu School was acknowledged as one of the 55 outstanding schools recognised by the Premier’s Congratulatory pack for attaining a high percentage of students who completed the Challenge.

Figure 3 – Students identifying as Aboriginal (all 3 education sectors) who completed the Challenge from 2004 to 2020

Summary of data table
Home educators and individual students

In 2020, 245 home-educated or individually enrolled students completed the Challenge (see Figure 4).

Figure 4 – Home education and individual students completing the Challenge from 2004 to 2020

Summary of data table






Students with a disability

The Challenge had strong participation from 17 special schools and 7 disability units in 2020.

Participation by gender

Of the 133,571 students who completed the Challenge in 2020, 50.2% were female and 49.8% were male. More males than females completed the Challenge in the first 5 years of participation, but in recent years there has been little difference between completion rates for boys and girls (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 – Certificates and medals awarded to students in 2020, by gender

Summary of data table
Participation in the Challenge and NAPLAN results.

In previous years, the relationship between NAPLAN results and students who did and did not complete the Challenge was reported. In 2020, due to COVID-19, NAPLAN was not conducted. For the first time since 2012 the findings cannot be reported.

How students are awarded

On the completion of reading of 12 books by early September each year, students are awarded a range of certificates and medals in progressive order:

  • certificate  (1 year)
  • bronze medal (2 years)
  • silver medal (3 years)
  • gold medal (4 years)
  • champion medal (5 years)
  • legend medal (6 years)
  • hall of fame medal (7 years)
  • hall of fame reader for life (R4L) certificate (8 years)
  • R4L bronze certificate (9 years)
  • R4L silver certificate (10 years)
  • R4L gold certificate (11 years)
  • R4L champion  certificate (12 years)
  • R4L legend certificate medal (13 years)
  • R4L hall of fame certificate (14 years).

The R4L hall of fame certificates were awarded to 27 students (up from 11 in 2019) in 2020. These students completed the Challenge every year since 2007. This is the final award and represents 14 years of Premier’s Reading Challenge growth.

The awards presented to students have increased each year, with 1,934,939 awards presented to date (see table 1).



Table 1 – Total awards

  49,536 71,299 90,915 100,971 107,223 111,652 116,282 119,777 124,244 126,738
 126,427 129,523 31,357 130,654 132,231 132,539 133,5711,934,939

Each year, there is a great uptake of the Challenge with 23,941 participants commencing in 2020. Fewer students participate as awards progress. For most students, once Reader for Life Bronze is earned in year 8, participation begins to wain (see Figure 6).

Numerous awards presentation ceremonies involving the Minister for Education, members of Parliament, Premier’s Reading Challenge ambassadors, and the manager were conducted in schools to celebrate completion of the Challenge.

Figure 6 - Challenge awards presented in 2020

Summary of data table
Premier’s Reception

Each year since inception, students and staff from 55 schools across the 3 education sectors with outstanding achievement or improvement have been invited to The Premier’s Reception. In 2019 it was hosted by the Premier, the Hon Steven Marshall MP and was held at the Sanctuary Function Centre, Adelaide Zoo.

For the first time since 2004, a physical reception was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic COVID-19. This did not, however, prevent the recognition of 55 outstanding Premier’s Reading Challenge schools.

The selected schools were instead posted a Premier’s Congratulatory Pack that contained: 1) books for their library, 2) a framed certificate of achievement, 3) a USB containing video speeches from the Premier of South Australia, the Hon Steven Marshall MP, Minister for Education, the Hon John Gardner MP and Rebecca Morse, PRC ambassador and virtual MC. The schools were encouraged to conduct their own local Premier’s Reading Challenge celebration using the materials provided.

Premier’s Reading Challenge ambassadors

One of the strengths of the Challenge in promoting reading for enjoyment is the Ambassador program. There are 22 individual ambassadors and 6 ambassador teams who volunteer their time to promote the Challenge. They all play a key role in motivating students to read and improve their literacy levels.

The individual ambassadors made 3 specific Challenge visits to schools to promote the Challenge before COVID-19 prevented school entries.

The Minister for Education, the Hon John Gardner MP, also made many school visits during 2020. He regularly highlighted schools’ achievements in the Challenge and encouraged schools to continue their involvement.

The ambassador teams volunteer their time as joint ambassadors for the Premier’s Reading and be active challenges. They usually promote the message of ‘reading and being active’ during school visits and clinics both in the metro area and in the country, but in 2020 visits were reduced.

For more information about the ambassadors and ambassador teams, visit www.prc.sa.edu.au .



How the Challenge is Promoted


Two posters for primary schools and two for secondary schools were designed by South Australian artists and posted on the website for students to vote for their preference during 2020. This was to enable students to have a voice in the promotion of the program, to influence the face of the Challenge for 2021 and to increase the engagement of secondary students.

The winning primary poster was by Denes Nagy and the secondary poster was by Olivia Bradley (see below). These will be printed and distributed as the posters for the 2021 Challenge campaign

The website

After 18 months of development, the new Premier’s Reading Challenge website was launched in October 2020. The new site reflects the needs of users and is the first refresh of the website since 2012. and the refresh was undertaken to ensure the site was secure for the future, was more appealing visually, provided additional interaction, was more intuitive and efficient, and enabled Challenge staff to edit and update the platform.

School contact

In 2021, the school contact staff who organised and supported the Challenge were critical to its success. Their efforts in encouraging teachers and students to read, maintaining book collections, requesting ambassador visits, entering data of students completing the Challenge and managing the celebration presentations were pivotal to the success of the Challenge.

School contact staff received monthly information about the Challenge via email. Regular communication was maintained and these updates continued to be a vital support in ensuring the success of the program.


The booklists were maintained and updated by a panel of 3 teacher-librarians, a public librarian and the Challenge administration team who met regularly. The knowledge of this group is critical in ensuring the quality of the booklists for the Challenge. The panel consists of Fran Knight, Jane Toop, Jane Bassham, Nicole Dent, Mark Williams and Kaleen Raethel.

The booklists continue to be a very important part of the program, as evidenced by the website usage. The most accessed/popular pages are the home page and the booklist pages.

 In 2020 there were 7,541 books on the booklists, including 155 new books. Books from series already included in the Challenge booklists were also added, but not individually listed as all books in a listed series are automatically included in the Challenge booklists.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) booklist category was used as the basis of a successful sub challenge of the Challenge (see Additional opportunities for students).


Focus on literacy

The Challenge supports the Department for Education’s (the department) focus on improving literacy of all students by encouraging them to enjoy reading.

Teaching literacy is a core responsibility at all levels of schooling and is a thread that runs through the Early Years Learning framework (EYLF), the Australian Curriculum, and SACE.

Literacy development at school is critical but so too is what happens outside of school and sothe Challenge supports parents to read with their children. There is a section for parents and families on the Challenge website with links to the departments’ Great Start website.

Additional opportunities for students

The Challenge ran several competitions over the year to highlight particular issues and initiatives and to align with department and government priorities. These included the West Java Leader’s Reading Challenge, the STEM Reading Challenge and the the Space Reading Challenge.

Links with other agencies

Strong links were developed and maintained within the department and with other nations and agencies including the Government of West Java Province and Inspiring South Australia.

Reading medals were exchanged between and presented to students at the completion of their respective challenges.

In term 3, 2020 (during , 1300 students submitted entries to the Inspire SA-supported STEM reading challenge. Inspire SA provided a range of science-related prizes to students and schools who participated. Associated with this challenge was the Space Reading Challenge that was supported by SmartSat CRC.



[1] Full-time equivalent students from ABS report 4221.0 Schools, Australia, 2020. Total students for 2020 were 272,756.

[1] Full-time equivalent students from ABS report 4221.0 Schools, Australia, 2020. Total Senior secondary students for 2020 were 58,506.

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Have a question about the Challenge?

Please email our Premier’s Reading Challenge mailbox or call for assistance. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Have a question about the Challenge?

Please email our Premier’s Reading Challenge mailbox or call for assistance. We look forward to hearing from you.