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Championing Literacy


As the UK’s leading bookseller and stationer, literacy remains the primary focus of our community programmes. Research findings consistently conclude that one of the most effective ways of helping children to reach their potential is to engage them in reading for pleasure enjoyment. Children who read for pleasure enjoyment make more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of ten and 16 than those who rarely read and young people who read regularly are significantly more likely to attain a professional or managerial position than those who do not read. Promoting the love of reading is therefore the overarching objective behind our literacy programmes.

Working with the National Literacy Trust to encourage Young Readers

WH Smith PLC and 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. Our partnership is now award-winning, having been recognised with a bronze award for Most Effective Long Term Programme at the Corporate Engagement Awards 2017.

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 2016/17, we worked with the National Literacy Trust to develop a new three-year partnership, continuing our core support for the Young Readers Programme model, but also introducing ‘live literature’ events to bring children into direct contact with authors, storytellers and illustrators, with the objective of really bringing books to life and inspiring children to want to discover the world of books and reading. Over the year, the WHSmith Trust’s funding 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.

The project was focused on working with 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 Teeside. In each area, the local WHSmith store team have also been involved, working with the schools and hosting school visits to the store. All participating schools were also able to boost their school or classroom libraries with £150 worth of books selected from their local WHSmith, 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 was a live author event in inspirational local settings. These included Glasgow’s Mitchell Theatre, Manchester Central Library and Teesside’s Riverside Football Stadium, and were run with the support of local partners, encouraging the development of sustainable links between schools and the wider community.

At the end of the 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
• 98.1 per cent said it had a positive impact on children’s reading enjoyment
• 72.7 per cent of teachers noted a positive change in pupils’ reading attainment over the course of the project
• Almost half of children who didn’t enjoy reading at the beginning of the project said they enjoyed reading after taking part
• Participating children also showed increased confidence in their reading skills, increased motivation to read and read a broader range of materials, all of which are associated with greater reading proficiency (Teravainen and Clark, 2017; OECD; 2009).

One child taking part in the project commented,
“ We got free books for us to take home and read. We had a real author come to our school! How amazing! And we are so lucky to be able to take part in all of these reading activities!! WE ALL HAD SO MUCH FUN!”
Teachers from some of the participating primary schools commented:
“ I cannot thank you enough for …the efforts you have gone to ensure the children have a passion for reading. Forever thankful.”
“ One child previously had no books at home and now has three, which he is now very proud to own.”
“ Due to us being located in an area of significant deprivation many of our pupils have a distinct lack of access to literacy resources at home. For many of the project pupils this was the first time they had owned new books and the motivation this gave them to read was phenomenal!”


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.
World Book Day is an important day in the year for our High Street stores with many stores running special events like competitions, fancy dress, author signing sessions and workshops. 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 redeemed £1 book vouchers worth over £370,000, giving free books to hundreds of thousands of children. We also marked our 225th anniversary by making World Book Day even bigger this year, partnering with the WHSmith Trust to donate WHSmith vouchers to 225 schools across the UK, helping them to increase their school library resources.


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 60 grants worth over £35,000 during 2016/17.

These grants go to match employee fundraising for charities which are close to their hearts. This includes small local charities such as hospices, music groups, Scout and Brownie packs, as well as big national campaigns such as Save the Children, Help for Heroes, 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 air ambulance service, for example, or the time many of our employees spend volunteering in local schools. To further encourage staff to volunteer their time to support schools, the Trust also makes grants to employees who are members of the school PTA 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.