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News story

A Royal celebration to mark 30 years

09 Jul 2024

Our Patron Her Majesty The Queen hosts reception at Clarence House to celebrate 30 years of the National Literacy Trust

Her Majesty The Queen hosted a reception at Clarence House to celebrate our 30th birthday.

Over 60 grassroots Literacy Champion volunteers joined staff, trustees and supporters of the National Literacy Trust at a special reception in the gardens of Clarence House on Tuesday 9th July. The event, hosted by our long-standing Patron, Her Majesty The Queen celebrated three decades of championing literacy within some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.

Jonathan Douglas CBE, CEO at the National Literacy Trust, addressed those gathered at the Clarence House reception to applaud the power of collaboration and partnership over the past 30 years – no role or part too small from volunteers to partners, staff to supporters.

Jonathan celebrated “everyone in the room [as] a valued partner in our mission. Without you we could not have worked with five million children over the past three decades. No one is simply a funder or supporter of the National Literacy Trust - everybody here is an active agent in our shared campaign.”

The royal celebration was also an important opportunity to recognise the work of our 1,000-strong Literacy Champion volunteers across the UK.

Literacy Champion volunteers are vital to our place-based approach

Over the last 30 years, we have worked alongside people who need us the most, supporting schools, families and communities on a local and national level. Rooted in a place-based approach, our Literacy Champions have supported us to reach 20 communities from Middlesbrough to Manchester, Swindon to Suffolk, Blackpool to the Black Country.

Our approach to actively engage these 20 communities wouldn’t be possible without the commitment, local knowledge and enthusiasm of our Literacy Champions. Through the trusted relationships we have built with our volunteers and local partners, our independent literacy charity has been able to empower and equip communities with the literacy skills they need to thrive for three decades.

“It is the Literacy Champions’ commitment; their embodiment of our mission, and the support of our partners, friends, authors, trustees and staff over these three decades, that has helped us achieve what we have. The National Literacy Trust has inspired and empowered over five million children; changing their life stories through the power of literacy, and we are as committed as ever to continue working with these extraordinary people, and others like them, in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, CEO at the National Literacy Trust

Discover more about our commitment to our work in the communities:

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Literacy Champions’ impact

National Literacy Trust Literacy Champions are a trusted local voice and help to show that literacy is for everyone through events and activities within their communities. This might involve creating and sharing fun activities for families, setting up and managing community bookshelves or becoming a storyteller and encouraging people to make speaking, listening, reading, and writing a part of their everyday lives and something they enjoy.

From bus-drivers, teachers and football coaches; to librarians and youth leaders, there are currently over 1,000 Literacy Champions across the UK.

Together, over the past 30 years…

  • we have inspired and empowered over 5 million children
  • worked with nearly 17,000 schools
  • gifted a staggering 528,303 books in 2023 alone, and
  • reached 9,834 parents of under-5s in the past 12 months

Donate to support our work as we look ahead to the next chapter.

Six Literacy Champions met Her Majesty The Queen at the reception at Clarence House

At the July event at Clarence House, six of our excellent Literacy Champion volunteers from Cornwall, Bradford, Stoke-On-Trent and the Yorkshire Coast met Her Majesty, in front of guests, trustees – past and present - and partners of the National Literacy Trust.

Find out more about what they have been doing to champion literacy in their communities:

Simone Reid, East Bowling, Bradford

Simone became a Bradford Literacy Champion during the pandemic to help herself, her daughter, Taliah (now nine) and her community engage with literacy while schools were closed.

As a child, Simone had struggled at school due to a traumatic life at home and describes how “everything happening outside of school was so loud and made it impossible for me to focus on my work.”

It was through connecting with books like Michael Morpurgo’s Twist of Gold that Simone found solace. Reading a story in which children who are experiencing poverty and hardship, find hope was a powerfully relatable. Simone is now a successful business owner who works to inspire children facing similar challenges to her own; helping them to build confidence and literacy skills.

As a Literacy Champion, Simone uses her inspiring story and infectious enthusiasm for books and reading to help children in the most deprived areas of the city realise that they can be readers too – and achieve whatever they put their minds to.

Simone has now reached over 10,000 children through her work.

Gloria Heilbron Buelvas, Ravenscliffe, Bradford

Gloria grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia, in a large family and now works as a Family Activity Coordinator at The Gateway Centre in Bradford. Her family lived in poverty, but they were passionate about sharing stories together, at home.

Since moving to Bradford over a decade ago, Gloria who is dedicated to working with families who have moved to the UK from aboard, has become a teacher and Literacy Champion. As a Literacy Champion supporting the National Literacy Trust in Bradford, Gloria runs an annual writing competition and a pen-pal scheme that connects children in Bradford with children in Colombia as a means of helping to integrate them into the community through sharing stories together.

Jess Jervis, Camborne, Cornwall

Jess is a bus driver based in Camborne, Cornwall, where she lives with her son, Zale (two years) and husband. She became a Literacy Champion with our Cornwall team after she attended a National Literacy Trust First Words Together programme and after a visit to the family hub in the area.

Eager to empower other families with what she’d learned about small interactions making a difference to young children’s early language and communication, Jess began her volunteering journey placing ‘Little Libraries’ on the buses she drove for families to enjoy.

As a bus driver, Jess not only helps families get where they need to go, she sets them on a journey to a life changed through literacy.

Jane Gill, Whitby, Yorkshire Coast

Jane has always loved reading and has spent many hours storytelling in the town library. As her passion for inspiring children and adults to enjoy reading for pleasure, Jane became a Literacy Champion.

These days and in her role as an Early and Primary Education Lecturer at the University of Scarborough, she harnesses her love of stories and creativity to inspire the next generation of teachers and storytellers.

Over her 15 years in Early and Primary Education, Jane has trained over 500 teachers, who are now helping 15,000 a year to develop a life-long love of reading.

Jane is now semi-retired but continues her storytelling sessions and as an ambassador for storytelling and education in her community, Jane’s work has now reached thousands of people on the Yorkshire Coast.

Luo Chen He, 13, Hanley, Stoke

Luo Chen He is a 13-year-old pupil at the Co-op Academy in Stoke-on-Trent, where he is the member of the afterschool Academy Writing Club. At the writing club, he promotes writing competitions and encourages his friends and peers to see themselves as writers.

Luo Chen He’s passion for writing saw him win the national Wicked Writers: Be the Change competition this year, in the 11 to 14 age group, with a creative tale about the importance of activism and the struggle to change the world.

Volunteering as a Youth Literacy Champion, Luo Chen He has enabled creative writing to become a hobby at his school and he has inspired his fellow students to believe that telling their unique story, with confidence, really can make a difference.

Jayden Lowndes,10, Little Chell, Stoke

As a young child, Jayden was a reluctant reader until his mum, Caroline started volunteering and book gifting for the National Literacy Trust in Stoke.

Inspired by these books, he began to take an interest in their stories and is now an avid reader.

Jayden now runs his own community book trolley at his school. Each Friday afternoon, he wheels out a trolley of books for parents to choose and swap back, after they have read them at home.

Jayden also hosts a community bookcase outside his home for local families, giving access to exciting, age-appropriate titles that families can take home and enjoy.

We’re committed to continue standing side by side with communities to tackle literacy inequality.

As we look back over the last 30 years, we are galvanised for the future of the National Literacy Trust. Joanna Prior, Chair of the National Literacy Trust, reflects:

“The mission of The National Literacy Trust – to empower children, young people and adults with the literacy skills they need to succeed – is more critical now than ever. The UK’s poorest communities are being hit the hardest by a growing cost-of-living crisis, with 1 in 12 children and young people saying they do not own a book of their own at home. As we celebrate this milestone today, The National Literacy Trust renews its commitment to tackle inequality and drive social mobility, to ensure that every person has the literacy skills they need to thrive as individuals, within their communities and as a nation.”

Discover more about our bold new strategy for 2024 to 2027.

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Together, let's look ahead to the next thirty years and continue to ensure everyone, irrespective of postcode, has access to vital literacy skills.

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30 years of changing life stories

The impact of our programmes, resources, community groups and events is transformative. Discover more stories from our past thirty years from more Literacy Champions as well as programme participants and partners.

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