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News story

We launch new Primary School Library Alliance with partner Penguin Random House UK

29 Oct 2021


Today, along with Penguin Random House UK, we launch a national alliance to address the chronic lack of investment in primary school libraries in the UK. Together, we are calling for large-scale public and private funding, alongside collaboration from other charities, publishers and ambassadors, to transform and equip 1,000 primary school libraries by 2025. This will support half a million pupils over the next four years.

Partners from across the public and private sectors including Arts Council England are among the first to fund the work of the alliance, with many others soon to announce their commitment. They have already pledged significant investment into primary school library provision – to train educators and inspire children to become the readers of the future.

The announcement of the Primary School Library Alliance comes as our new The Future of Primary School Libraries report, published today, shows 40% of primary school respondents say they have no dedicated school library budget, from data provided to us by the School Library Association and Softlink. The evidence also suggests teachers often have to buy reading materials with their own money.

The report also shows 1 in 4 schools in England’s most disadvantaged communities do not have a library or designated reading space, compared to a national average of 1 in 8 schools. This reflects the widening literacy attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers as a result of the disruption of COVID-19 on children’s education.

School libraries have a proven positive impact on all areas of primary pupils’ learning, including the development of reading and writing skills, wellbeing and overall academic attainment. Recent economic analysis has also shown supporting reading for pleasure can result in more children achieving five good GCSEs, in turn boosting their lifetime earnings by an average of £57,500. However, many teachers lack the knowledge, skills or time to manage their school library effectively.

To support the work of the Alliance, Arts Council England has awarded over £900,000 through its National Lottery Project Grant programme to expand World of Stories, a library programme run by us and Puffin, part of Penguin Random House UK. With additional investment of over £1 million from Penguin Random House UK in both cash and in-kind support, World of Stories will transform and support 500 primary schools and thousands of children to become life-long readers and learners. Over the last three years the programme has already transformed 225 primary schools and offers bespoke training, new books and resources to participating schools. The calls have been welcomed across the education and literacy sector including the School Library Association.

“It is an honour to launch the Primary School Library Alliance today alongside Penguin Random House. We’re also delighted and grateful to have the financial support of Arts Council England and other corporates for funding the work of the Alliance. The Alliance is calling for private, public and third sector organisations to unite with the publishing community and help to transform primary schools across the UK. “At the National Literacy Trust, we know that 1 in 11 children on free school meals don’t own a single book of their own. With the latest research showing 40% of primary schools don’t have the budget to support and sustain a library, it paints a very concerning picture of how these children and young people are able to access new books, and unlock a lifetime of potential through reading. Together, we are committed to changing this.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust

“Books offer inspiration, escape, and the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes. Research has shown that children who read for pleasure have better life chances in the future, get better grades, and report higher levels of wellbeing. “Yet so many children are missing out on the joy of reading because our schools simply don’t have the resources they need. To help address this critical issue, we are delighted to increase our own investment in partnership with Arts Council England to expand our tried-and-tested World of Stories programme to 500 more schools across the UK, from Blackpool to the Black Country.”

Siena Parker, Social Impact Director at Penguin Random House UK

“Hearing that half a million children will benefit from this fantastic Primary School Library Alliance within the next four years is most welcome news. Books are so important for locking children’s potential but there are so many barriers to access, from school budgets to lack of resources and support for teachers. So many children and young people will have their potential unlocked as a result of this fantastic initiative. “A book can take us anywhere: to another city, to a different country or even an alternative world. As a teacher who feels so passionately about reading, I cannot wait to see where these children will be transported to. ”

Britany Parker, Teacher

“Primary school libraries are essential to children’s literacy and learning and yet the recent research by the National Literacy Trust continues to highlight disparity across the UK, impacting the development of reading and writing skills, wellbeing as well as overall academic attainment. They are in desperate need of funding. The School Library Association is excited to support this great initiative which will have a significant impact on pupils and will provide further evidence of the impact of school libraries.”

Alison Tarrant, CEO of the School Library Association
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