The National Literacy Trust is to launch an initiative to address the attainment gap and support the wellbeing of children in 14 target areas across the UK, funded by Arts Council England.
Connecting Stories aims to increase children and young people’s access to literary experiences and books in the communities most in need of support. The charity will engage with its network of publishing partners and authors, and work closely alongside local organisations over the next year.
Through a calendar of community-driven activities, the initiative will develop reading skills and creative writing abilities. Activities will include creative writing competitions, author visits, book donations to schools, walk and talk trails and exhibitions. There are plans to grow regular and sustained participation in literary and wider cultural activities. The intiative will also support local and central libraries by promoting library use and membership.
The target areas are identified by the Trust’s Hubs, which are place-based regional literacy campaigns working to reach disadvantaged children and families most in need of literacy support to improve literacy levels, through community action and campaigning.
Chief executive of the National Literacy Trust Jonathan Douglas said: “Connecting Stories will help support the literacy of those in communities facing the most significant literacy challenges. We are delighted to have been successful in our bid to Arts Council England to enable us to further our work with our publishing partners and bring a new and exciting initiative in creative writing and reading across our Hub areas.
“Arts Council England’s 10-year strategy, Let’s Create, aligns with our focus, advocating for an arts and culture sector which can work in the country’s most disadvantaged communities on place-based initiatives. We are incredibly proud to be bringing Connecting Stories to life.”
A key focus of the initiative is to help "improve attitudes and behaviours towards reading for pleasure, in diverse, disadvantaged communities where the impact of Covid-19 has been most acute". This follows research from the National Literacy Trust which shows that children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to read above the level expected for their age as those who don’t enjoy reading.
Sarah Crown, director of literature at ACE, said: “This year has been extraordinarily disruptive. At times like these, books and reading can offer both emotional succour and a means of developing critical skills and engagement that will allow those communities most heavily impacted by the pandemic to recover and flourish in its wake.
“This a profoundly important, potentially transformative project, which rightly places local communities at its heart—and Arts Council England is proud to support the National Literacy Trust to work with regional artists, publishers, and councils in order to deliver it.”