We are on a mission to get our youngest children reading

LAURA CHAMBERS • 12 May 2021

OECD research shows reading is a key indicator in a child’s future success - BookTrust and the children's poet laureate have launched an initiative supported by Jobtrain and others, aiming to even the playing field for children's future life prospects.

We, along with a number of other organisations, are supporting the Children's poet Laureate Cressida Cowell's Life Changing libraries project to level the playing field for underprivileged children whose reading opportunities have been worst hit by the pandemic. We believe that investing at this young age will help to ignites children’s creativity and learning and so build a better future for themselves.

One in eight primary schools has no library facility at all and this initiative will work with six schools across the country to create library spaces stocked with around a 1000 books. The scheme is also providing Tonieboxes (a child friendly, portable speaker to listen to stories on) to each school involved in the pilot project with plans to support a proposed nationwide roll-out in the future.

Cressida Cowell MBE, Waterstones Children’s Laureate, has written an open letter to the government to increase the number of books available to primary school children in the poorest communities, helping to bridge the gap of their opportunities for success in later life based on OECD findings. In the open letter Cressida states:

"Millions of children, particularly those from the poorest communities worst hit by the pandemic, are missing out on opportunities to discover the life-changing magic of reading – one that OECD research suggests is a key indicator in a child’s future success. How can a child become a reader for pleasure if their parents or carers cannot afford books, and their primary school has no library, or that library is woefully insufficient?"

Chris Keeling, Founder and CEO of Jobtrain said,

"We wanted to help the youngest age group to help maximise their career and work potential in later life. Based on the OECD research supporting an installation of decent libraries in primary schools with access to books is a great start and the Tonieboxes and audio books are a great way to get children interested in reading at an early age.

Joseph Addison, the co-founder of The Spectator magazine, once said ‘reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body’. As an organisation, we want to do everything we can to help give primary school children the opportunity to explore their imaginations and create worlds for themselves that they may not always see as possible. We hope other companies within the recruitment and technology sector will get involved at a local level in supporting this goal."

This news story featured in OnRec in May 2021.

About BookTrust

BookTrust is dedicated to getting children reading because they know that children who read are happier, healthier, more empathetic and more creative. Their early language development is supported and they also do better at school.

They are the UK’s largest children’s reading charity; each year reaching 3.9 million children across the UK with books, resources and support to help develop a love of reading, because they know that reading can transform lives.

They work with a variety of partners to get children excited about books, rhymes and stories, because if reading is fun, children will want to do it. Their books are delivered via health services, libraries, schools and early years practitioners, and are supported with guidance, advice and resources to encourage the reading habit. booktrust.org.uk

About Life Changing Libraries

Life-changing Libraries’ is Cressida’s flagship project as the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Laureate. Over the course of a year, six very different primary schools across England – all of which have at least 25% of pupils eligible for free school meals – will be helped to develop a reading for pleasure culture, with the support of BookTrust and Cressida.

The project will spotlight the four pillars of a successful ‘gold standard’ school library – space, book provision, expertise, and whole-school and parent involvement. It is inspired by Cressida’s twenty-year experience visiting schools and grounded in the most recent research into the benefits of reading for pleasure and the challenging financial reality facing primary school libraries.

A bespoke, dedicated library space will be created by BookTrust in each of the six primary schools and stocked with a specially curated book list of approximately 1000 titles, selected by BookTrust’s expert book selection team with guidance from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, to inspire and engage children. Staff will be provided with professional training and mentoring from specialists at the School Library Association, as part of a two year-membership.

About the Waterstones Children’s Laureate

The Waterstones Children’s Laureate is managed by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, and sponsored by Waterstones. It is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field, and celebrates children’s literature as an art form, recognising its contribution to culture and bringing it to the attention of a wider audience.

This prestigious role was originally created by Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and author Michael Morpurgo. The ‘League of Laureates’ are the foremost representatives of children’s literature, showcasing the extraordinary and dynamic art form and its rich contribution to culture in the UK. Each Laureate brings their own passion to the prestigious role and focuses on their own particular themes to create a unique legacy.

The current Waterstones Children’s Laureate is Cressida Cowell, the international bestselling author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series and author of the Emily Brown picture books. The previous ten Laureates are: Quentin Blake (1999-2001), Anne Fine (2001-2003), Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005), Jacqueline Wilson (2005-2007), Michael Rosen (2007-2009), Anthony Browne (2009-2011), Julia Donaldson (2011-2013), Malorie Blackman (2013-2015), Chris Riddell (2015-2017), Lauren Child (2017-2019).

About Cressida Cowell

Current Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell is the number one bestselling author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once book series, and the author of the Emily Brown picture books, illustrated by Neal Layton. She has sold over 11 million books worldwide in 38 languages. How to Train Your Dragon is also an award-winning billion-dollar DreamWorks film series, and a TV series shown on Netflix and CBBC; The Wizards of Once has also been optioned for film by DreamWorks.

Cressida is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, a trustee for World Book Day, founder patron of the Children’s Media Foundation and is on the Council of the Society of Authors. She has won numerous prizes for her books, including the Blue Peter Book Award and the Ruth Rendell Award for Championing Literacy. She is an honorary fellow of Keble College Oxford, and has a honorary doctorate from the University of Brighton. She grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland and she now lives in Hammersmith with her husband, three children and two dogs called Pigeon and Zero.

Get Started
Book a demo