Our response to the Ukraine War

29 Mar 2022

At the National Literacy Trust, we, like so many, have been shocked by the war in Ukraine over the past weeks and the appalling suffering that it's creating. As ever, the response from the third sector has been inspiring, from the charities supporting in Ukraine and on the border, to the charities based in the UK who are doing all they can to support and welcome Ukrainian refugees.

As the government’s plan for supporting Ukrainian refugees has become clearer, we have been thinking about what we can do to support. We know that we are not humanitarian or refugee experts but we do feel passionately about helping children and families affected by this traumatic war with the power of literacy. We know we can support in two ways. Firstly by supporting refugee families arriving in the UK and secondly by supporting teachers to help children understand and make sense of the crisis.

As Michael Gove has suggested, it is expected that the areas that currently have large Ukrainian populations will host the most families in the first phase of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Our Hubs in Nottingham, Bradford and Manchester (all areas with large Ukrainian populations) are well placed and we have infrastructure and partnerships in place to make a difference. We know the impact the power of reading can bring to a child, helping to provide comfort when they need it most, and so we’re working to provide thousands of Welcome Reading Packs which will include Ukrainian and English titles. We will use the networks we’ve built in our Literacy Hubs, where we have teams on the ground to distribute these books to families that are arriving. We will leverage the power of partnerships, as we always do, and draw on support from our many publishing partners. Many of which are already responding in creative ways with new Ukrainian titles and mass fundraising efforts through the sale of books.

We will also be recruiting Ukrainian speaking volunteers to run community storytelling sessions for refugees, so even when children feel isolated and far away from home, they will see and hear the support of their local community.

But we understand there is more to do. We also need to support children and families currently in the UK. From the start of the crisis we’re been working with partners to produce and signpost to resources for teachers and parents to help them talk about the war with children, to support wellbeing and also to combat the spread of disinformation. In the longer term as Ukrainian children start in schools we will be working with our partners to think about what resources and support we can provide in educational settings.

I am incredibly proud that as a charity we are able to use the expertise we have working within communities, supporting schools and with publishers to help displaced families. Our previous work and experience of working with partners supporting refugees in the UK will enable us to think about what we can do as an organisation now and how to support refugees in the longer term as they settle into their new life.

Find out more about the Ukraine War resources and support we are offering. If you have any questions about our response, or would like to discuss partnering with us to deliver Welcome Reading Packs then please email contact@literacytrust.org.uk

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive, National Literacy Trust