We celebrate the success of Connecting Stories and launch next phase

10 Sep 2021
Edmund

Today we are delighted to announce the extension of our Connecting Stories initiative.

Connecting Stories, which launched in January 2021, is an Arts Council England-funded project to address the literacy attainment gap in areas in need across the UK.

Expanding on the work of the Literacy Project, set up in 2018 by the Publishers Association and then President Charlie Redmayne, Connecting Stories increases children and young people's access to literary experiences and books by providing an exciting programme of events including virtual and in-person author visits, creative writing competitions, book donations and various activities for families to enjoy together.

This follows our research that shows children who enjoy reading are happier in their lives and are three times more likely to have good mental health and wellbeing than children who do not enjoy reading.

Now in its next phase, a key focus of the initiative is inclusion and diversity. Connecting Stories will continue to work alongside a wide range of publishers to engage a diverse list of authors, connect with and support diverse communities, and nurture a love of reading by providing children and young people with positive depictions of themselves in the books they read.

The first stage of the project, which engaged over 95,000 people across the nation, was supported by 26 publishers and 55 authors and illustrators. 431 schools across the charity's 14 local areas were supported by Connecting Stories through a calendar of exciting activities including a total of 41 digital and in-person author events, which included a livestream event from Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell on World Book Day, and the donation of over 50,000 books thanks to the generous support of our publishing partners.

Alongside Cressida Cowell, authors who joined us to champion reading and creative writing in events that spanned several of our local areas included A. M. Dassu, Konnie Huq, Adam Kay, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, Tom Percival and many more. Authors and publishers with connection to our local areas also supported the project. Local authors Darren Simpson and L.D. Lapinski helped to inspire a love of reading in children across from Nottingham, while local author Guy Bass championed the Peterborough Connecting Stories campaign with support from Danny Wallace.

Other highlights of the first phase of the Connecting Stories initiative included inviting children and young people to take part in a creative writing competition which saw over 1,100 entries, publishing 16 anthologies of children and young people's work, launching 13 walk and talk trails throughout the summer including a trail in Middlesbrough based on the novel Edmund the Elephant Who Forgot from local author Kate Dalgleish. A library focused unique spy mission illustrated by Stoke illustrator Kidda Kinsey was also created as part of the project.

Businesses, authors and schools across the country joined together to take part in the #Take10ToRead challenge as a way to promote reading for wellbeing and mental health. In support of the challenge, Anthony Horowitz virtually visited thousands of children across the UK to share his thoughts about the impact of reading on his own mental health and wellbeing.

As part of the project, Community Consultation Groups were established across the 14 local areas, bringing people together from various communities to help design and shape the Connecting Stories programmes and strategy. Connecting Stories will continue to work with these groups in order to help improve attitudes and behaviours towards reading for pleasure, and supporting wellbeing in diverse, disadvantaged communities.

The National Literacy Trust is hugely grateful to the 26 publishers and 55 authors who have supported Connecting Stories. If you would like to get involved or to find out more, please email: Marykate.McGrath@literacytrust.org.uk.