A new chapter for literacy in the North East

29 Mar 2017
RNE launch

We've just announced a new campaign to boost children’s literacy levels in the North East. The campaign is the work of the North East Literacy Forum, led by us and supported by publisher Penguin Random House UK, the Education Endowment Foundation and Greggs PLC.

The Read North East campaign will focus on early years literacy, encouraging parents to read with their children from birth to give them the best start in life. A series of events and activities will raise awareness of the importance of literacy skills and inspire local children and families to pick up a book.  

The campaign will address a significant literacy challenge in the North East, where literacy levels are among the lowest in the country. 17% of the population aged 16 to 65 (about 283,500 people) have the literacy skills at or below those expected of a 9 to 11-year-old.

We have been working with local communities in the region since 2012, when we set up the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough to address low literacy levels in the town. The Hub has already had a significant impact on the number of children reaching a good level of development at age five, closing the attainment gap with the national average.

Read North East will bring together a range of partners, to align and enhance the impactful literacy initiatives already being delivered in the region. The new creative campaign will feature iconic characters from Penguin Random House UK’s books to capture the imaginations of families and inspire them to read. Local businesses will also have the opportunity to play an important role in the campaign through a regional business pledge.

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:

“Partnerships are vital to the success of this new campaign and we are delighted to be working with a range of brilliant organisations to improve literacy levels in the North East – a region with such a rich identity of language and writing. The early years are a crucial time for young children to develop the literacy skills that will set them up for the future. Working together we can ensure that every child in the North East has the literacy skills they need to succeed at school and in life.”

Read North East was launched at an event on Wednesday 29 March, hosted by John Mowbray OBE, High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear. He said:
“I chose literacy as my theme for my year as High Sheriff as it is the key to unlock the potential of young people in our region. What I found as I investigated was a range of organisations doing some amazing work and now working together to support this campaign. I hope all sectors can join with our partners as together we can really improve literacy levels in the North East.”

Joanna Prior, Managing Director, Penguin General Books, added:
“We are happy to be working with the National Literacy Trust and local partners to help bring the fun and excitement of books and reading to children in the North East. Penguin Random House UK is committed to helping every child read well by the age of 11. We know that a love of reading can literally change lives for the better and our books, authors and illustrators can make that magic happen for every child - wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.”

James Turner, Deputy Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation, said:
“Good literacy skills provide the building blocks not just for academic success, but for fulfilling careers and rewarding lives. Yet despite our best efforts, disadvantaged children in England are still more than twice as likely as their classmates to leave primary school without reaching the expected levels in reading and writing. We know that effective parental engagement is one of the keys to tackling this gap, and especially important in the early years. As part of our wider work to support literacy in primary schools in the North East, I’m delighted that the EEF is involved in the Read North East campaign to help parents give their children the best start in life.‎"

Richard Hutton, Finance Director, Greggs plc, said:
“We recognise that literacy is the foundation upon which other skills are built, that it can have an impact on people at every stage of their life and that it can therefore make a huge difference to our staff, customers and the communities that we serve. Helping them to succeed is, in the long term, not only good for the sustainability of our business but also critical to increasing social mobility within the region. We are therefore pleased to be supporting the Read North East campaign, encouraging parents to read with their children to give them a great start in life.”

The North East Literacy Forum includes: Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians(ASCEL), the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, the Middlesbrough Reading Campaign, the National Literacy Trust, New Writing North, Northern Children’s Book Festival, Penguin Random House, SCHOOLS NorthEast, Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and Seven Stories.