Eighty-five new schools to benefit from Puffin World of Stories

Eighty-five new schools to benefit from Puffin World of Stories

Puffin and the National Literacy Trust are providing books, resources and training to 85 new primary schools across the UK through Puffin World of Stories, which enters its third year this autumn.

The Puffin World of Stories programme has reached over 34,000 children across 139 schools to date across the UK, and participation from 85 new schools will open it up to 22,000 more children in 224 total schools this academic year. The 85 new schools taking part in the programme are based in London, Nottingham, Middlesbrough and Gateshead—four areas where low levels of literacy are said to be "seriously impacting children’s lives" as identified by the National Literacy Trust.

The scheme works by giving primary schools serving disadvantaged communities the tools they need to reinvigorate their libraries and reading spaces and establish them as vibrant hubs of creativity and imagination. As part of this, 41,700 books have been donated and 25,500 more are to come for the new schools taking part. Puffin World of Stories has also made almost 5,000 audiobooks available to schools, and will make a further 2,550 available this year.

Each of the primary schools on the scheme will this year receive 300 new books, with the selection comprising both much-loved classics and new voices, with an emphasis on a diverse and representative range of authors and stories, according to PRH. There will also be "bespoke virtual training", offering "practical advice and inspiration for teachers on how to build a culture of reading for pleasure in their school, involving pupils, teachers and parents". Other resources on offer include posters, bookmarks and bunting to help teachers bring reading spaces alive; this also includes new Puffin branded Covid-19 resources, such as posters of a Puffin showing how to wash hands safely, and guidelines for quarantining books for 48 hours after use to stop the spread of the virus.

Penguin Random House pointed out additional Covid-19 restrictions and the wider impact of the pandemic means school libraries are going to be more important than ever in closing the literacy gap. Research from the National Literacy Trust and Puffin published in July found that the gap in reading enjoyment between boys and girls widened five-fold from 2.3 percentage points at the beginning of 2020 to 11.5 percentage points during lockdown. 

The Puffin World of Stories programme accordingly pivoted during the crisis to help provide additional support to teachers and parents at participating schools to ensure that pupils could continue to access stories despite school closures. The National Literacy Trust launched Family Zone, which linked to Puffin Schools and Puffin World of Stories websites, directing parents to branded resources to support their child’s reading at home, while Puffin also launched Puffin Storytime, daily readings and draw-alongs to support reading for pleasure at Puffin World of Stories schools and beyond, watched by over one million children and families during lockdown. While the virtual Puffin Festival of Big Dreams took place in June, all schools were also sent digital home-learning handbooks ready to be sent on directly to parents and guardians.

Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: "Schools are currently facing more challenges than ever before. At Puffin, during lockdown, we were determined to keep true to our mission, laid down in our foundation 80 years ago, to ensure the accessibility of stories and help keep the magic of reading for pleasure alive. We were therefore quick to offer schools and parents as much support as possible with our free Puffin Storytimes and virtual Puffin Festival of Big Dreams. Now with the reopening of schools, the reality is that many may have even less time, resources or funds to focus on their school libraries when their day-to-day routines have been turned completely upside down and with the added pressure of catching up on curriculum learning. We know that many teachers are passionate about the fundamental role that libraries play in creating a culture of reading for pleasure in school—and the positive impact this has on academic attainment and even emotional wellbeing. So there is a real need and opportunity to build on and extend this support even further.

"We hope that through Puffin World of Stories we are able to help in a simple but transformational way by bringing the magic and wonder of books to some of the children whose lives have been most affected by the social and educational disruption caused by this terrible pandemic."

Douglas, chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust—recently the recipient of a CBE for services to education—said: "Covid-19 is set to have a disastrous impact on the literacy of many children from disadvantaged communities, who already leave primary school significantly behind their peers in reading. Puffin World of Stories can play an important role in mitigating this risk by helping children unlock a love of reading that we know can enhance their reading skills, academic achievements and wellbeing.

"We know that schools serving disadvantaged communities are almost five times less likely to have a school library or dedicated reading space than schools in the most affluent areas. By bringing the magical world of stories into schools that need it most, we can start to combat the potential long-term impact that school closures will otherwise have on disadvantaged children’s life chances if their literacy ability falls even further behind that of their peers."