Beanstalk launches literacy charter

Children's literacy charity Beanstalk has published a "Charter for Children's Literacy", calling for action to improve reading standards.

Authors including Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson and Charlie Higson are backing the charter, with HarperCollins sponsoring the initiative.

Among its recommendations, the charter calls on the government to fund a trained reading helper in every primary school, and to supply each primary school with a library by providing funding and catalysing local business partnerships, with library facilities to be included in Ofsted inspections.

It also asks businesses—including children's publishers—to improve child literacy by enabling staff to volunteer to read in their local schools, and for publishers to continue to invest in the children's literature market—providing the widest possible range of digital, across all platforms.

A survey of over 750 of Beanstalk's volunteer readers found 24% felt it was a priority in raising children's literacy to have a reading helper in every school that needs one. Ten per cent favoured more business involvement to raise children's career aspirations and encourage them to learn to read, with 5% choosing more high quality, exciting children's literature. Forty per cent found that the most popular genre of book with the children they work with involves families, pets and everyday life, followed by 29% selecting pirates, adventure and fantasy. Just 2% went for sci-fi, space and robots, with unicorns, fairies and ballerinas, and monsters, vampires and ghosts chosen by 3% of the volunteers.

Children's laureate Julia Donaldson said: "In terms of society's attitudes to children's reading, I think that nowadays people seem terribly earnest about children's reading habits. I would rather that the press devoted less space to worrying surveys and analysis, and instead devoted more space to news and reviews about actual children's books." She also said she would ideally see children being given a library ticket when they go to school, and links between schools and libraries being strengthened.

HarperCollins c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley said: "Like all publishers, at HarperCollins we are passionate about great story telling and introducing readers to the power of compelling narrative. We now have all the new opportunities offered by the digital world to excite and entertain new readers and, hopefully, to open their eyes to the pleasures of reading."

Other supporters of the charter include Booktrust c.e.o. Viv Bird, National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas and The Reading Agency chief executive Miranda McKearney.

The charter marks Beanstalk's 40th year. The full charter can be downloaded via the Beanstalk website, at www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/news-and-media/latest-news/charter.