New Primary School Library Alliance pledges to transform 1,000 school libraries across the UK and highlight need for investment

The National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK launch a national alliance to address the chronic lack of investment in primary school libraries in the UK. The two organisations 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.

Primary School Library children holding books
  • Publisher Penguin Random House UK and the National Literacy Trust have formed an alliance calling on government, business and charities to unite with publishing community
  • New National Literacy Trust report highlights chronic lack of investment, with 40% of primary schools reporting having no dedicated school library budget in recent survey
  • Disadvantaged children most impacted; exacerbated by impact of COVID-19 and resulting educational disruption
  • Arts Council England have awarded £900,000 to National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House to expand library programme, with Penguin Random House pledging £1m+ investment
  • Digital retail bank Chase among other corporates pledging support

Partners from across the public and private sectors including Arts Council England and new digital retail bank Chase 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.

Primary School Library children with hands up

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

The report also shows 1 in 4 schools(iii) 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(iv) 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 Penguin Random House and the National Literacy Trust.  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.

Primary School Library books on shelf

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust says:
“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.”

Siena Parker, Social Impact Director at Penguin Random House UK says:

“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.”

Britany Parker, Teacher says:

“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. ”

Primary School Library children reading books

Alison Tarrant, CEO of the School Library Association says:

“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.”

To read the Primary School Library Review research findings, please visit: literacytrust.org.uk/libraryalliance.

To find out more about the World of Stories programme, please visit: https://literacytrust.org.uk/programmes/love-our-libraries/world-of-stories/

Organisations that would like to join the Alliance can find more information at literacytrust.org.uk/libraryalliance.

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