25 years of changing life stories

literacy25 website

2018 was our 25th anniversary! The National Literacy Trust was launched in 1993, and in that time we have directly worked with 2 million children, seen a 24% increase in the number of children achieving a good level of English at GCSE and raised £10 million from business to tackle poor literacy.

We wanted to use the occasion of our 25th birthday to demonstrate why the need to raise literacy levels in the UK is more pressing than ever – and we’ve been very busy!

Research

We released four key research reports throughout 2018, refreshing the evidence base for the prioritisation of literacy:

  • February – life expectancy: This report found that children born into communities with the most serious literacy challenges have some of the lowest life expectancies in England.
  • June – fake news and critical literacy: We chaired the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills, with the final report finding that just 2% of children have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake.
  • September – mental wellbeing: We surveyed 49,047 children to explore the link between reading, writing and mental wellbeing. We found that children who enjoy reading and writing are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing.
  • December – book ownership: This report found that the more books a child owns, the more likely they are to do well at school and be happy with their lives.

Hubs

We launched three new National Literacy Trust Hubs this year in social mobility cold spots across the UK – Swindon in February, Nottingham in April and the North Yorkshire Coast in October. To launch each Hub, we coordinated a bus tour in each location, visiting local schools to give storytelling performances and distribute free books.

We also secured new funding for our Hubs in Peterborough and Stoke-on-Trent through the Big Lottery Fund, and celebrated the 5th anniversary of our Hub in Middlesbrough.

Fundraising

We launched a fundraising appeal video fronted by broadcaster, presenter and children’s author, Clare Balding, and held our first-ever BBC Radio 4 appeal in August, voiced by Gaby Roslin, which raised a total of £15,400. We were chosen as Penguin Random House’s Charity of the Year, and were a chosen charity for the annual ICAP Charity Day, raising £70,000.

Supporters of our work abseiled down 35 floors of Broadgate Tower in London to raise money for our work, while our annual Where’s Wally? fun run attracted hundreds of runners.

Policy work

We chaired the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools, and published the final report into the topic in 2018. The report was launched at an event at the House of Lords, attended by key MPs, policymakers and other organisations and chaired by Mariella Frostrup.

In July, we were announced as a founding member for the Department for Education’s new coalition, which aims to halve the number of five-year-olds who start school without good early language and communication skills by 2028 – and in November, we convened businesses and charities at the Home Learning environment summit, with speeches from Education Secretary Damian Hinds and a panel made up of key business leaders.

As secretariat of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy, we also held a roundtable in Parliament in December to discuss the best ways to ensure that all children acquire the early language and communication skills they need to learn to read and write when they start school.

Celebrations

We celebrated our anniversary at an extra-special gala dinner, held at the Plaisterer’s Hall in London. We were joined by our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, as well as a host of authors and celebrities including Tom and Giovanna Fletcher, David Baddiel, Prue Leith, Jilly Cooper, Judith Kerr, Adele Parks and Joanna Trollope.

The celebrations continued at our summer party hosted by Hachette. Alongside authors, celebrities and supporters, students who had taken part in our Words for Work programme attended, who shared the skills they had learnt while participating in the programme and their career aspirations.

We also launched a new podcast series in 2018, In Conversation With…, where we interviewed top children’s authors about their writing. Dermot O’Leary, Patrice Lawrence and Greg James and Chris Smith were all interviewed.

Take a look at the #Literacy25 hashtag on Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at what we’ve been up to!