Connecting Stories is an ambitious project to increase access to literature in places where people are most likely to be facing poverty and have poor literacy skills. It is a National Literacy Trust programme funded by Arts Council England.
Working across 14 communities in need of support, Connecting Stories aims to address the literacy attainment gap and increase children and young people’s access to literary experiences and books, alongside their families. The campaign launched in December 2020 and reached more than 200,000 people.
Connecting Stories 2, which ran from October 2021 to April 2023, created more exciting opportunities for children and young people to engage with inspirational authors, illustrators, and a diverse range of books. Adopting a place-based approach, it worked directly with schools and the wider community to identify what was needed at a local level and empowered local people to take active roles in shaping and delivering our work.
Over the last 18 months, Connecting Stories 2 has:
- Reached over 500,000 people with online author sessions, competitions and public events and directly engaged with over 180,000 people through local projects and activities.
- Mobilised over 600 people who live and work in our priority communities to become volunteers through our Literacy Champions programme – contributing more than 125,000 hours.
- Partnered with 43 publishers and 158 authors, illustrators, storytellers and creatives.
- Gifted over 160,000 books donated by publishers.
Connecting Stories 2 has had a measurable impact on children and young people from these communities. When compared to the national average, children from schools in the disadvantaged areas that we worked with most intensively, showed more positive attitudes and behaviours towards reading and writing:
- 22% more enjoy reading at school.
- 37% more write daily in their free time.
- 40% more used their public library.
We also found that community members from across our network had improved reading and writing confidence, and engagement with local cultural activities:
- More than 4 in 5 (81.8%) parents felt 'very confident' reading with their child, compared with 3 in 4 (75.0%) six months ago,
- More community members now visit their local library (48.9% vs 44.6%).
Partners also showed positive views towards working with the National Literacy Trust, and also assessed how effectively their work had been implemented in our hubs over the past year:
- Almost all (97.0%) partners agreed that since working with the National Literacy Trust, they are using more local assets to achieve aims.
- 9 in 10 (91.0%) partners agreed that they now better understand the specific literacy challenges in the community and have reached new groups within the local community.
- A majority of hubs (60%) indicated improvements against most of our eight place-based working principles, over the past year.
- Almost all of our Literacy Champions agreed that they have encouraged others to engage with literacy (94.2%) and have helped others in their community to access resources to support reading (93.2%).
The evaluation indicates that Connecting Stories 2 has firmly established community-led, partnership working, empowering hundreds of thousands of children and young people to improve their literacy attitudes and habits. The next phase of the project, Connecting Stories 3, will build on successes so far to continue to change life stories.