As the UK’s leading bookseller and stationer, literacy remains the primary focus of our community programmes. Research findings consistently conclude that children who read for pleasure have better life chances, and promoting the love of reading is therefore the over-arching objective behind our literacy programmes.
Working in partnership with the National Literacy Trust
WH Smith PLC and the WHSmith Group Charitable Trust have been working in partnership with the National Literacy Trust for eight years now on projects to
promote reading for pleasure.
We are currently supporting the National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers Programme for Families and are in the second year of a three year programme. The programme provides workshops for parents which give parents practical tools to support their child’s literacy development. The partnership with WHSmith has funded projects in 17 locations during 2011/12, taking place in locations up and down the UK, with a total of 250 families taking part.
Each project is made up of five workshops for parents with primary school age children, with sessions covering how to read with your children, helping your child select books, how to get the most out of library services and how to choose books to buy for the home. At the end of each session, children join their parents so they can build confidence reading together. The final session includes a visit to the local WHSmith store where the Children’s Books Supervisor gives the families a tour around the store and WHSmith vouchers so that the children and parents can choose new books together. The school also receive WHSmith vouchers to buy books for the classroom.
Over the three years of the programme, we are measuring performance against three key performance indicators to ensure that the project delivers a positive and sustainable impact on literacy levels and attitudes to reading. As a result of taking part in the programme in 2011/12:
- The number of families spending time reading together at home at least once or twice a week rose from 40 per cent to 100 per cent. The number reading together every day rose from 31 per cent to 87 per cent.
- 68 per cent of parents reported seeing their children reading more at home. The percentage of children asking to share stories every day rose from 68 per cent to 88 per cent.
- 53 per cent of families who were not currently accessing library services chose to join their local library. 67 per cent of families made a return visit within a fortnight of their programme visit.
One project coordinator from Newport observed, “it was interesting to see how attitudes changed by the end of the course. Parents no longer felt that they should choose books for their children and they also acknowledged the importance of reading at home. Some said they were now reading more themselves!” The project coordinator from Middlesborough also remarked on the positive impact on parents and their confidence about being involved in their children’s education: “Parents from the first project have continued to meet every Thursday morning. Three have become school governors and two are now regular parent helpers.”
Parents also noted the change in their children’s attitude to reading. A parent who attended the workshops in Newport commented, “my daughter used to watch DVDs in bed but now she chooses to read a book instead. This helps her settle more and get a better night’s sleep. She also takes a book on bus and car journeys.”
The workshops during the summer term also gave families the opportunity to try using a Kobo eReader to illustrate the different ways of reading books. The Kobos were popular with the children with 80 per cent of the children giving feedback that the Kobos looked good, were easy to use and made reading more exciting.
In the final year of the programme, we hope to build on the success of this year’s programme, reaching some new locations and also inviting teachers to give feedback on the reading attainment of some of the children taking part in the programme.
Supporting 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 overall organisation of the UK’s World Book Day initiative. This year, Jackie Wing, Category Director for Fiction and Digital, acted as vice-president of World Book Day.
World Book Day is always a big event in our High Street stores with many holding themed events for children from local schools. Events included face painting and storytelling, Where’s Wally and Winnie the Witch activities and also appearances by children’s authors, this year including Jacqueline Wilson. Many stores also invite local schools into store so that they can take part in the special events and use their £1 World Book Day vouchers. This year, we also worked in partnership with one of our landlords, British Land, to host World Book Day events in four locations. More detail can be found in the case study.
The WHSmith Group Charitable Trust
The WHSmith Group Charitable Trust is an independent registered charity [registered charity no. 1013782] that actively supports employees that are involved with charitable organisations in their local community. The Trust has two principal objectives which focus its activities:
- 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 are personally involved in work across their communities. To support and encourage staff involvement, the Trust matches employee fundraising and volunteering, making around 25 grants worth over £18,000 during 2011/12. These employee-nominated charities range from big national campaigns such as Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation to small community based charities including brownie packs and hospital radio services.
The Trust also supports schools, with grants to employees who are on the PTA or Board of Governors, opportunities for employees to nominate a local school for a grant, and a monthly prize draw which any school is eligible to enter.
WHSmith’s High Street stores are at the heart of communities across the UK. Our store teams are keen to play an active part in those communities. One way they can do this is through the WHSmith Schools Giveaway. Now in its third year, the Giveaway is a partnership with the WHSmith Trust whereby High Street stores receive vouchers to give to a local school. This year, over 120 of our stores shared more than £20,000 in WHSmith vouchers with local schools. The feedback from schools was overwhelmingly positive, with store managers helping teachers to take advantage of the latest offers and promotions to get the most for their school in terms of new books and stationery supplies. Our store managers also used the Giveaway as an opportunity to make a positive difference in the wider community.
One example is WHSmith’s Bradford store where the store team collaborated with the local shopping centre to run a competition for a child or school to come forward and demonstrate their efforts to support the Positive Bradford scheme. Store Manager, Angela Fawcett visited local school Lidget Green Primary to award them with a certificate and the £200 prize for creating a poster and promoting friendship and respect in their local community.
In Teeside, our store team host regular school visits and storytelling events as well as a school book review scheme where local schoolchildren review new titles and have their reviews displayed in store. The store use the Schools Giveaway vouchers to run an annual literacy award competition in three schools and sponsors a shelf of books in two schools where children can borrow a reference book to help with work or just a fiction book to read.
Books for Hospitals
WHSmith now has a strong presence in the hospital sector, operating stores in 114 hospitals across the UK. The staff within our hospital stores often become a core part of hospital life and well known to the hospital staff. Many of our store managers provide ad hoc support to the Hospital Trust, for example donating discontinued stock or prizes to hospital fundraising activities; however we were keen to find other ways for WHSmith to support the Hospital Trusts. We discovered a few years ago that books are often overlooked in hospital budgets, but can play an important role in patients’ care, for example as a tool to distract young patients during treatment or to help an older patient to relax.
For the third year, we worked in partnership with the WHSmith Trust in 2012 to make book donations to ten hospitals where we have a store. As part of the programme, each hospital receives a donation of over 300 books, perhaps for the children’s ward or hospital school or for library trolleys operated by volunteers. To assist with the needs of patients with impaired vision we also included magnifying sheets and some Kobo WiFi eReaders, which offer a variety of font sizes to make reading more comfortable. This year’s book presentations took place in hospitals from Kirkcaldy to Plymouth, and were led by a number of members of the WHSmith senior management team, including WHSmith Travel Stores Director, Andrew John, and Mark Sabin, Group Director of Audit, Risk and Communications.
At Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, volunteers from the WRVS operate the patient library service and Pat Hamilton, Derriford Hospital library co-ordinator for the WRVS, said: “This donation is incredibly important to us. We get a lot of books from patients and staff but these are brand new and they are invaluable to us”. Amanda Whitlock, the WRVS South West Service Delivery Manager, said: “These books will be used for our hospital trolley service, which provides a really important service for those who have to stay in hospital. Our volunteers also spend time with the people who use the service, offering friendship and support to make their time in hospital pass a little bit quicker”.
In the year ahead, we plan to make further book donations to another ten hospitals where WHSmith has stores.