The National Literacy Trust's Connecting Stories campaign, championing literacy in diverse communities in need of support, has attracted the support of 18 publishers and 32 authors, including children's writers Sathnam Sanghera, Konnie Huq and Steve Antony.
The Arts Council England-funded project addresses the literacy attainment gap across the charity’s 14 "hub areas" and increases children and young people’s access to literary experiences and books in regions where support is particularly vital.
The literacy hubs are in Bradford, Birmingham, Doncaster, Hastings, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire Coast, Nottingham, Peterborough, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Manchester, North East, Blackpool, and The Black Country.
Between now and 30th January, each hub will reveal the publisher and author or artist who will be championing reading and creative writing in their community. To further support the goal of encouraging children to become readers and writers, publishers will also be donating books to each area.
Children and young people in these areas will also be invited to take part in a creative writing competition with a unique theme. Entries will be part of one of 19 Connecting Stories anthologies and displayed in exhibitions supported by each community’s cultural institutions, such as Nottingham Unesco City of Literature and Bradford Literature Festival. The competition launches on 1st February.
Jonathan Douglas CBE, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust, said he was "staggered by the response" from publishing partners and authors joining the initiative, developing reading skills and creative writing abilities in communities with significant literacy challenges.
He added: "Arts Council England have funded a brilliant opportunity for children to be connected with celebrated authors and improve attitudes and behaviours towards reading for pleasure, while raising awareness of everything that libraries can offer young people and their families. I am so excited to follow the campaign in each of our 14 Hubs, and I cannot wait to see some of the creative writing entries."
Sarah Crown, director of Literature at Arts Council England, said: "Connecting Stories is a brilliant, creative way of supporting children’s literacy in communities suffering disproportionately from the impact of Covid-19. The commitment of publishers big and small to helping children and young people connect with stories and authors is hugely exciting, and will offer inspiration to children and families around the country, as well as a means of celebrating the unique communities and resources in local areas.
"Arts Council England is proud to support this work, and excited by the opportunities it offers, both now and in the future."
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, called it "an admirable campaign". "Both large and independent publishers are taking part so children across the nation will have access to a range of books, ensuring they feel represented and encouraged by what they are reading."
One participating publisher is Bonnier Books. Perminder Mann, c.e.o. of Bonnier Books and chair of The Publishers Association Consumer Publishers Council, said: "Far too many children have difficulty accessing books and hundreds of thousands don’t own a book of their own. As a result, our future generations are being severely limited from reaching their full potential – a problem that is only being exacerbated by Covid-19. Connecting Stories works with the communities with the most significant literacy challenges to help to bring reading to life to and encourage children to read and write. It’s wonderful see so many publishers and industry colleagues engage with this vital initiative."