A new campaign to boost children’s literacy levels in the North East has been launched 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 from 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 for literacy related 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 launch event was held at the University of Sunderland on Wednesday 29 March, where SCHOOLS NorthEast Director Mike Parker gave an introductory speech.
Mr Parker said: “We cannot, as committed citizens, accept a society in which a third of parents and grandparents have a maths ability of a nine-year-old; and, in which one in five are not able to read and write at secondary school level.
“Something magical happens in our primary schools. Children from all backgrounds feed off the enthusiasm and the nourishing environments that our primaries create.
“The result is that at KS2, we achieve among the highest outcomes of any region. But, despite the many and varied interventions in our secondary schools, by the time pupils get to GCSE and A-levels, our attainment is among the worst in the country.
“There are many theories why this should be, but the absence of a clear and coherent strategy to drive up basic adult skills, I believe, removes the scaffolding of learning support that must sit around a child as they progress through education.
“Until we acknowledge this as the greatest issue facing the North East, and until we get collective responsibility at all levels, across all sectors and all facets of society, we are consigning ourselves to a Groundhog day of failure and myopic mediocrity.”
SCHOOLS NorthEast is also represented on the campaign advisory board. Improving literacy levels in the region is one of the charity’s main strategic aims and we will work to bring together key decision-makers from across sectors and the region to agree and commit to a plan.
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.”