Publishers and retailers including Amazon, W H Smith, Walker Books and Penguin Random House have signed a pledge to "tackle the nation’s growing literacy and social mobility crisis".
The 'Vision for Literacy Business Pledge' will focus on closing the early years attainment gap to give all children the "best possible start in life". Altogether 54 businesses have already pledged their support, including 15 from the publishing industry.
First established in 2015 by the National Literacy Forum, which is led by the National Literacy Trust, the pledge aims to give businesses the support they need to tackle literacy problems in the workplace, local community and on a national level. To date, as a result of the pledge, 67% of businesses have reported improved employee engagement and 50% saw employee morale and motivation rise.
The National Literacy Trust said: "As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, businesses must become more competitive in order to survive and thrive in a global marketplace. But as the pressure to retain skilled staff and recruit the best talent increases, businesses are seeing a widening gap between the basic skills they need from their workforce and the skills these employees actually have.
"Young people in the UK have some of the poorest literacy skills in the world; particularly those from the most disadvantaged areas. These children and young people will struggle at school, will be locked out of the job market and consequently won’t secure the income they need to break the cycle of poverty in which they live. Far from being restricted to regions with low income, high unemployment and social deprivation, analysis by Experian and the National Literacy Trust shows that serious literacy issues exist in 86% of constituencies in England."
To address these challenges, the Department for Education’s Opportunity Areas programme is targeting local and national resources in the 12 areas with the greatest social mobility and literacy problems. By tackling disadvantage at every stage of a child’s schooling, from early years through to employment, the programme aims to give every child the best possible chance to succeed in life.
Education secretary Justine Greening said: “Making sure children can read fluently helps give them the best possible start in life and through our raised standards and emphasis on phonics, an additional 154,000 six year olds are on track to becoming fluent readers. But there is more to do to tackle social mobility and businesses have a vital role to play in this, so it is encouraging to see so many leading organisations signing the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge.”
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said that business has a "powerful role" to play in improving the literacy skills of all children and young people. "The Vision for Literacy Business Pledge gives businesses the tools and support they need to really make a difference. Whether you have one employee or thousands, low literacy is an issue your business can’t afford to ignore. Sign up to the pledge today", he said.
Businesses signing the 2018 Pledge will benefit from toolkits and resources to support literacy activities with staff, customers and local schools; access to the latest analysis from the National Literacy Trust and Experian to help businesses target their work in the communities that are most in need of literacy support; the latest literacy policy, research and best practice; and opportunities to engage with business leaders, policy makers and literacy experts.