As the largest supporter of Young Readers Programme’, British Land is using the initiative to garner media attention and keep staff feeling good about where they work.
- In 2016 one in three children from poorer backgrounds left primary school unable to read well
- Those with poor literacy skills are “more likely to be workless
- Early action can break the cycle of disadvantage and turn around a child’s future
- Since 2012, 19,053 children from 224 schools have benefited from the [reading] events, choosing 57,159 books to keep
- 71 per cent of teachers noticed children choosing to read new types of books
"Last year, one in three children from poorer backgrounds left primary school unable to read well. That’s a terrible statistic,” says Joanne Hammond, community investment executive at British Land. Children eligible for free school meals are also less likely to enjoy reading and read less frequently outside class.
“ If every child left primary school with the reading skills they need, our economy could be £32.1bn bigger by 2025. ”
This doesn’t sound significant in itself, but when you know that reading for pleasure has more impact on a child’s educational achievement than parents’ socio-economic status – and is the most important indicator of future success – you realise how terrible indeed it is.
In fact, according to the National Literacy Trust, those with poor literacy skills are “more likely to be workless, living in inadequate housing, in poor health and dissatisfied with their life.” In essence, literacy can have a lifelong impact on health, confidence, employability and happiness.
Luckily, early action can break the cycle of disadvantage and turn around a child’s future, says Hammond. “If every child left primary school with the reading skills they need, our economy could be £32.1bn bigger by 2025.”
British Land’s Young Readers Programme, with the National Literacy Trust
In order to turn children into readers, it needs to be intrinsically motivating, and enjoyable. That’s what the British Land’s Young Readers Programme, with the National Literacy Trust, aims to do.
British Land hosts three literacy events with professional storytellers, taking reading out of school and making it fun. Children also get to select and keep three books for free.
Teachers are trained to promote reading, and all of the 288 trainees described this as valuable or very valuable for their professional development. They all shared training and information with colleagues too, benefiting future pupils.
Since 2012, 19,053 children from 224 schools have benefited from the events, choosing 57,159 books to keep.
All teachers say reading enjoyment of reluctant readers has increased and most (89.5 per cent) see positive changes in pupils’ reading attainment. “The biggest impact has been the increase in enjoying reading, with children asking if they could have time to read their books,” says one teacher.
All children took part in sessions to increase their knowledge of authors, genres and the many books available, and 71 per cent of teachers noticed children choosing to read new types of books.
Simply owning the book also changes literacy attitudes. “For some children this is the first time that they have ever owned a new book and this can be a real turning point in their attitude towards books and reading as a whole,” says another teacher. “The project is invaluable.”
Some 89.5 per cent of teachers noticed positive changes in pupils’ reading attainment, while two-thirds (66 per cent) have seen children recommending books to one another, and 63 per cent say children read more often.
As for British Land, the community programme inspires its staff, and Hammond says the special project is one that the site teams are really proud of. “In the pilot phase in 2011, when we ran the project at four of our retail sites, we were absolutely blown away by the enthusiasm of our people and how well they worked with the NLT to develop this project.”
Enhancing the company’s reputation
The project also enhanced the company’s reputation, contributing to it winning the Queen's Award for Enterprise 2016, and gaining positive media coverage.
Hammond sees improving literacy is an absolute priority for UK businesses, and she has plenty of evidence to back this up. With the UK’s literacy levels ranking 20th of 22 developed countries and, according to a recent British Chambers of Commerce Workforce Survey, 88 per cent of businesses saying that school leavers are unprepared for the work place, 40 per cent of businesses now provide remedial training in basic skills to school and college leavers.
“The UK is the only OECD country where literacy skills among young people are worse than those of the older generation, meaning that the basic skills of the UK labour force are actually in decline.”
British Land has been the Young Readers Programme’s largest supporter since 2013, and remains committed until 2019. “Business is integral to the solution and we strongly encourage other companies to join the national literacy campaign, help close the literacy gap and improve the UK's economic competitiveness and sustainability,” says Hammond.