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Parents and carers spending less on books as cost-of-living crisis impacts families across Britain

27 Feb 2023

Chase Rewarding Futures Newport.JPG

New research from the National Literacy Trust and digital bank, Chase, reveals the impact that the cost-of-living crisis is having on children’s access to books and the vital role that school libraries are playing in the current economic climate.

The research, which surveyed over 3,000 parents and carers across Great Britain, has been published to coincide with the start of the second year of the Chase Rewarding Futures school library programme. The aim of the programme is to support children and young people to fulfil their future potential by developing an early-life love of reading.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) of parents and carers in Great Britain have asked their children to borrow more books from their school library, as 2 in 5 (40 per cent) of families say they are struggling financially. 1 in 5 parents and carers (20 per cent) said they were spending less on books for their children due to increases in the cost of living. This could have a long-term impact on a child’s literacy ability as 1 in 6 (16 per cent) parents and carers said their child was struggling more at school compared to 12 months ago. Key Stage 2 SATs results for 2022 showed that 1 in 4 (25 per cent) 11-year-olds left primary school unable to read at the expected level.

The research underlines the central role of school libraries in supporting families with access to books, audio book players, and inspiring spaces to read. 9 in 10 (92 per cent) parents and carers surveyed said having access to a good school library was important, and a quarter (26 per cent) said they were visiting the library more as a family now. Yet, 1 in 7 (14 per cent) state primary schools do not have access to a library, which means over 750,000 children could be missing out on crucial early learning skills.

With parents and carers under increased pressure to make ends meet, 1 in 10 (10 per cent) parents and carers said they were too stressed to read to their child, and 2 in 5 (41 percent) said their child did not have access to a quiet space to read at home. However, the research shows 4 in 5 (81 per cent) parents and carers said their children enjoyed reading, with reading leading to various positive outcomes such as better mental wellbeing, and 3 in 5 (60 percent) said reading helped their child relax. Access to libraries has never been more important in giving parents and carers the resources they need to support their literacy development.

The Chase Rewarding Futures initiative, launched in 2021 with the National Literacy Trust, marked Chase’s commitment to a series of community focused programmes across the U.K. The first year of the Chase Rewarding Futures school libraries programme, in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, and supported by Penguin Random House UK, saw 156 libraries in underserved areas in the U.K. transformed reaching almost 55,000 children, and 92,820 books and e-books donated to schools.

Chase has committed a further £1 million to the initiative, and this year the programme will expand its reach to seven new regions to support communities with the tools and resources they need to help inspire a love of reading. This year’s programme includes:

  • Providing a further 62,000 children in underserved areas with new library spaces designed to enhance their reading experiences
  • Access to a diverse range of books donated by Penguin Random House and educational technology such as audiobook players and an audiobook collection
  • Equipping 312 primary school teachers with bespoke training to support them with implementing a reading for pleasure strategy and creating powerful reading role models throughout their school community

Schools involved in year one of the programme will receive an enhanced digital package which they can select based on requirements needed at their school.

The programme builds on a tried-and-tested model pioneered by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK, Puffin World of Stories, which addresses the key issues facing many underserved primary school libraries including lack of time and skills and lack of budget to buy new books.

"We know that experiencing poverty and financial strain impacts children’s literacy – with families not being able to afford books and having less time and energy to spend reading, writing, and talking to their children at home. That’s why initiatives like Chase Rewarding Futures are more important now than ever. We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Chase on this transformative programme this year, delivering even more exciting reading spaces, resources and training to primary schools across the UK."

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust

Deborah Keay, UK CMO at Chase said: “We understand that household finances are under pressure and this is having a profound impact on the decisions and compromises parents and carers have to make each day. Now, more than ever before, school libraries are playing a pivotal role in providing children access to a range of literature to support their learning. Our programme aims to support teachers and schools to instil an early love of reading so children have a safe space to let their imaginations run wild and explore other worlds. We know that early reading skill development can unlock a child’s potential and improve their prospects later in life.”

Graham Harley, Primary 6 Teacher, Sighthill Primary School, added,
“We believe having a well-stocked, organised and inviting whole-school library is a vital resource that every school in the country should have. If a school is lucky enough to have a newly refurbished library, it allows teachers and support assistants to educate young people in a creative and inspiring environment.

“Libraries can empower pupils and help them discover a love for reading at a young age. This is why having a library directly in your school is so important to us as we strive to support and improve young people’s future learning prospects. At Sighthill Primary School we feel incredibly lucky to have the Chase Reward Futures school library programme supporting the implementation of a brand new whole-school library.

"Working with the National Literacy Trust and Chase to design, build and support our library, we feel very excited for what the future can bring."

Chase is part of the Primary School Library Alliance which has pledged to transform 1,000 school libraries and up to 500,000 pupils’ attainment and wellbeing, alongside the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK.

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