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Championing Literacy

Championing literacy

WH Smith PLC and the WHSmith Trust have supported the National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers Programme since 2005. Projects run as part of the partnership have reached thousands of children across the UK, through summer play-schemes, family reading programmes and most recently, a project promoting peer reading in schools.

The Young Readers Programme motivates children and young people to read for enjoyment through a series of events that celebrate the fun of reading. At each event the children put into practice skills taught as part of the programme to select a free new book of their choice to keep, increasing book ownership, which has been shown to have a positive impact on educational attainment.

During 2017/18, we worked with the National Literacy Trust to deliver the second year of a three-year partnership, continuing our support of the Young Readers Programme, and introducing ‘live literature’ events to bring children into direct contact with authors, storytellers and illustrators, to bring books to life and inspire children to want to discover the world of books and reading. Over the year, the WHSmith Trust’s funding has allowed the National Literacy Trust to work with 1,500 children in 24 primary schools across the UK, allowing them to choose more than 4,500 free new books to keep. Over the course of our entire partnership, we have now helped to deliver fun, literacy-focused events for 24,000 children and given out over 60,000 books across the UK.

The project focuses on schools in five areas of the UK, each identified as needing additional support for children’s literacy. These areas are Glasgow, Peterborough, Manchester, Swansea and Teesside. In each area, the local WHSmith store team has been involved, working with the schools and hosting school visits to the store. All participating schools are provided with an annual gift of £150 worth of books selected from their local WHSmith store, to boost their school or classroom libraries to use as an ongoing resource to support children’s shared reading time within the school setting.

The culmination of the project year in each location is a live author event in inspirational local settings. These include Glasgow’s Mitchell Theatre, Manchester Central Library and Teesside’s Riverside Football Stadium, and are run with the support of local partners, encouraging the development of sustainable links between schools and the wider community.

At the end of the current project year, feedback from teachers illustrated the impact on participating children and their attitudes to reading:

• 100 per cent of teachers felt the Young Readers Programme had been effective in motivating the children they work with to read.
• 93.9 per cent said it had a positive impact on children’s reading enjoyment.
• 100 per cent of teachers noted a positive change in pupils’ reading attainment over the course of the project
• 53.6 per cent felt it was important to own books having taken part in the project.
• Participating children also showed increased confidence in their reading skills and increased motivation to read a broader range of materials, which are associated with greater reading proficiency.

One child taking part in the project commented:

“I really enjoyed the Young Readers Programme. I also liked the idea of letting the child choose the book that they would like to receive. The idea of encouraging the child to read more is amazing. I just want to say thanks”

Teachers from some of the participating primary schools commented:

“One child was a very reluctant reader at the beginning of the year. The look on her face when she received her first Young Readers Programme book was priceless as she had never owned a book before. She carried it with pride. Throughout the year she wanted to know what we are doing for the next bit of the project.”

“All the class now has an enjoyment of reading and the idea of owning their own book has been very exciting for them. For many children this has had a huge impact of pleasure and amazement”

“A reluctant reader at the start of the year read very few books. He now has a conversation about the books he is reading and his parents are involved too. He has joined the library and brings his books into school. He loved the fact that he could keep the Literacy Trust books and has read them many times over. It has been lovely to see him enjoy reading. So thank you.”

In 2017, our partnership received a bronze award in the Most Effective Long -Term Programme category in the Corporate Engagement Awards.

Celebrating World Book Day

World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. It is the biggest annual celebration of books and reading in the UK and is sponsored by National Book Tokens, with a group of publishers, booksellers and interested parties all working together to promote the enjoyment of reading. WHSmith continues to take a leading role in the delivery of the UK’s World Book Day initiative.

World Book Day is an important day in the year for our High Street business with many stores running special events like competitions, fancy dress, author signing sessions and tours of the bookshop, to see a book’s journey from delivery to the shop floor. Local schools are invited into store so that children can take part and use their £1 World Book Day vouchers. This year, despite the challenges of winter weather, World Book Day was a great success with 280,000 £1 book vouchers redeemed. Two-thirds of our stores ran events, using World Book Day as an opportunity to talk to local schools and establish or build on existing relationships. Thousands of children picked up their £1 book at these events and had a chance to listen to stories, and talk about reading.

In addition to providing and redeeming £1 World Book Day vouchers, we also partnered with the WHSmith Trust to donate WHSmith vouchers to schools across the UK for them to choose books to increase their school library resources. Over 200 schools were helped in this way with £20,000 of vouchers being donated.

WHSmith Group Charitable Trust

The WHSmith Group Charitable Trust is an independent registered charity that has two principal objectives:

• to support the local communities in which WHSmith staff and customers live and work; and
• to support education and lifelong learning, helping people of any age to achieve their educational potential.

We encourage our employees to be actively involved in their local communities and many of our staff fundraise or volunteer their time for charities, community groups and other local good causes. To support and encourage staff involvement, the Trust matches employee fundraising and volunteering. During the Trusts’ 2017 financial year, it made 60 grants as part of this programme, worth over £30,000 in total.

These grants go to match employee fundraising for charities our staff feel passionate about. These include small local charities such as hospices, playgroups, Scout and Brownie packs, as well as big national campaigns such as Save the Children, Help for Heroes, the British Heart Foundation and the National Autistic Society.

The Trust also recognises the time that employees spend volunteering for charities and matches the value of the time they spend. This may be time spent volunteering for a local care centre, for example, or the time many of our employees spend volunteering in local schools. The Trust also makes grants to employees who are members of a school parent-teacher association or Board of Governors.

During our 225th anniversary year, all of the funds raised by the WHSmith Trust have been donated to our three partner charities, Cancer Research UK, MIND and the National Literacy Trust.