Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, reflects on the current lockdown and why the charity needs your support more than ever in its mission to support children and their families through this time.
Last September, the National Literacy Trust committed to supporting one million children and young people whose literacy has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. With the continuing lockdowns and disruption to schooling, the need for our support has never been greater. We are fundraising so we can continue this work and ensure no one is left behind.
We’re back in the very difficult scenario where schools across the country have closed their doors, with the exception of vulnerable and key workers’ children. However, we feel confident in the support we can provide schools and families through exciting online resources and physical resources for young people who are digitally excluded.
During the first lockdown, over half a million families turned to our website, where we hosted a free online version of Bloomsbury’s The Book of Hopes, exclusive author interviews and expert resources and activities to do at home. This website has now migrated to Words for Life, where families can find guidance and activities for children, from early years through to young adult. We have also linked with Oak National Academy on our Virtual School Library, extending our reach to millions of households across the UK. Over 200,000 people visited our virtual library in the first week of the partnership and were able to read Jacqueline Wilson’s The Story of Tracy Beaker for free.
At the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy I presented some startling stories about how COVID-19 has exacerbated the literacy challenge for young people from disadvantaged communities. The digital divide has exacerbated the literacy challenge, with an estimated 700,000 young people in the UK unable to access online learning, and our research shows that over 38,000 children have no books of their own at home. These children need books and physical resources to support their learning and their wellbeing. Thanks to the generosity of publishers and community partners we have been able to continue to meet this need over the past weeks of lockdown.
We are dedicated to supporting children, young people, families and educators, who are understandably finding this period immensely challenging. We ask for your help so we can continue our mission to ensure everyone can access books and the lifelong benefits of literacy skills.
Please visit our fundraising page for more information on how you can support our work.