Author and actor Nathan Bryon has been named the first ambassador for Puffin World of Stories, a partnership between PRH UK and the National Literacy Trust.
The scheme aims to address the lack of investment in primary school libraries. It follows 2019 research by the Great School Libraries Survey suggesting 44% of schools serving the UK’s most disadvantaged communities do not have a library.
Now in its third year, Puffin World of Stories has reached more than 56,000 pupils and donated 80,000 books to 225 schools across the UK. The programme equips participating schools with tools to develop library or reading space, offering bespoke training and new books.
Over the course of Bryon’s ambassadorship, he will promote the importance of reading for pleasure via virtual content and in-school visits, as well as interactive resources based on his books.
Bryon’s debut picture book collaboration with illustrator Dapo Adeola, Look Up! (Puffin), recently won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Both Look Up! and his most recent book Clean Up! will be included in the donation of 300 books to every participating school. Bryon has chosen to focus on the importance of diversity and representation in children’s books as a key feature of his ambassadorship.
He said: “As the inaugural ambassador, I’ve made it my mission to promote diversity in children’s books. Reading was a problem for me when I was growing up. I am dyslexic and I have always needed to read and write at my own pace. But I also found it difficult to connect with the stories we had at school because they didn’t reflect life as I knew it as. A book has the power to can change anyone, so they must be available to everyone – with young people from all backgrounds able to feel excited and inspired by the characters they read about.”
Research by the National Literacy Trust published in December 2020 found 40% of children and young people from minority ethnic backgrounds say that they don’t see themselves in what they read, compared to 31% of white children. This was particularly true for Black children and young people. The book donation offered by Puffin World of Stories includes a diverse line-up of titles, and the training includes support and ideas on how to embed diversity into schools' reading for pleasure strategy.
Francesca Dow, m.d. for Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “At Puffin, we believe that stories can inspire a child to feel that they can be, and do, anything. Given the impact of disrupted education as a result of Covid-19 will have profound effects on the most disadvantaged children for years to come, we believe that the power of books and reading for pleasure has never been more important. We can’t wait to work with Nathan over the next year to share the magic of reading with many more children across the UK.”
Jonathan Douglas, c.e.o. of the National Literacy Trust, added: “Nathan Bryon is a fantastic ambassador for the programme, including promoting diversity in literature and greater access to books, and we are so excited that he’ll be championing the Puffin World of Stories’ model of library support. Primary school libraries have an urgent and vital role to play in children’s lives – we know that children are enjoying reading more, and yet 380,000 children in the UK still don’t have a book of their own. Covid-19 exposed the deep inequalities in our society and schooling and we are proud partners of an initiative that enables children to have better access to books and their lifelong benefits.”