A new campaign to boost children’s literacy levels in the North East has been announced by the North East Literacy Forum, led by the National Literacy Trust and supported by publisher Penguin Random House UK, the Education Endowment Foundation and Greggs PLC.
The Read North East campaign will focus on early years literacy, encouraging parents to read with their children from birth to give them the best start in life. A series of events and activities will raise awareness of the importance of literacy skills and inspire local children and families to pick up a book.
The campaign will address a significant literacy challenge in the North East, where literacy levels are among the lowest in the country. 17% of the population aged 16 to 65 (about 283,500 people) have the literacy skills at or below those expected of a 9 to 11-year-old.
The intergenerational literacy challenge in the region has been reinforced by new data analysis by the National Literacy Trust and Experian, which looked at the social factors most closely associated with low literacy. The analysis of every electoral ward and parliamentary constituency in England found that 60% of wards in the North East are at risk of serious literacy problems, making it the second most vulnerable region to literacy issues in the country.
Read North East will bring together a range of partners, to align and enhance the impactful literacy initiatives already being delivered in the region. The new creative campaign will feature iconic characters from Penguin Random House UK’s books to capture the imaginations of families and inspire them to read. Local businesses will also have the opportunity to play an important role in the campaign through a regional business pledge.
The National Literacy Trust has been working with local communities in the region since 2012, when the charity set up the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough to address low literacy levels in the town. The Hub has already had a significant impact on the number of children reaching a good level of development at age five, closing the attainment gap with the national average.
National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:
“Partnerships are vital to the success of this new campaign and we are delighted to be working with a range of brilliant organisations to improve literacy levels in the North East – a region with such a rich identity of language and writing.
“The early years are a crucial time for young children to develop the literacy skills that will set them up for the future. Working together we can ensure that every child in the North East has the literacy skills they need to succeed at school and in life.”
Read North East will be launched at an event on Wednesday 29 March, hosted by John Mowbray OBE, High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear. He said:
“I chose literacy as my theme for my year as High Sheriff as it is the key to unlock the potential of young people in our region. What I found as I investigated was a range of organisations doing some amazing work and now working together to support this campaign. I hope all sectors can join with our partners as together we can really improve literacy levels in the North East.”
Joanna Prior, Managing Director, Penguin General Books, added:
“We are happy to be working with the National Literacy Trust and local partners to help bring the fun and excitement of books and reading to children in the North East. Penguin Random House UK is committed to helping every child read well by the age of 11. We know that a love of reading can literally change lives for the better and our books, authors and illustrators can make that magic happen for every child - wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.”
James Turner, Deputy Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation, said:
“Good literacy skills provide the building blocks not just for academic success, but for fulfilling careers and rewarding lives. Yet despite our best efforts, disadvantaged children in England are still more than twice as likely as their classmates to leave primary school without reaching the expected levels in reading and writing.
We know that effective parental engagement is one of the keys to tackling this gap, and especially important in the early years. As part of our wider work to support literacy in primary schools in the North East, I’m delighted that the EEF is involved in the Read North East campaign to help parents give their children the best start in life."
Richard Sutton, Finance Director, Greggs plc, said:
“We recognise that literacy is the foundation upon which other skills are built, that it can have an impact on people at every stage of their life and that it can therefore make a huge difference to our staff, customers and the communities that we serve. Helping them to succeed is, in the long term, not only good for the sustainability of our business but also critical to increasing social mobility within the region. We are therefore pleased to be supporting the Read North East campaign, encouraging parents to read with their children to give them a great start in life.”
Read North East aligns with the new Read On. Get On. strategy to get all children reading well by the age of 11. The strategy highlights the need to recruit local leaders to convene campaigns which address specific literacy challenges.
The North East Literacy Forum includes: Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL), the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, the Middlesbrough Reading Campaign, the National Literacy Trust, New Writing North, Northern Children’s Book Festival, Penguin Random House, SCHOOLS NorthEast, Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and Seven Stories.
12011 Skills for Life Survey
2 In 2015, more children in Middlesbrough achieved a Good Level of Development at the end of the EYFS, closing the gap with the national average from 22.6 percentage points in 2013 to 6.27 percentage points.