The Reading Agency announced as part of Festival UK* 2022 creative teams’ line-up

10 creative teams have today been announced as part of Festival UK* 2022 – with one team including national charity The Reading Agency.

Following a three-month R&D programme and a rigorous assessment process of 30 creative teams, 10 teams have now been commissioned to take their ground-breaking projects into full production for next year’s Festival UK* 2022. Intended to bring people together and showcase creativity, projects will reach every corner of the UK. They will include events, public engagement activities, participation opportunities and learning programmes reaching millions of children and young people, demonstrating the importance of creativity in people’s lives and our collective futures.

The Reading Agency joins a creative team that also includes representatives from StoryFutures Academy run by Royal Holloway, University of London and the National Film and Television School (NFTS), British Film Institute (BFI), ISOdesign, Nexus Studios, Uplands TV, and Produce UK. The team’s project will be an experiment in film, broadcast and augmented reality, public archives, digital access and immersive storytelling asking who are we? Where did we come from and where are we headed?

Hayley Butler, Head of Marketing and Communications, The Reading Agency commented “Supporting the creative industries recovery over the next few years is of upmost importance as part of the country’s recovery. The paid R&D project has supported more than 500 creatives from across STEAM, including more than 100 freelancers, at a time when sectors have been impacted by the Covid pandemic and the Festival is committed to creating much needed jobs and opportunities for the industry. As one of the successful teams who will be part of Festival UK* 2022 The Reading Agency’s priority is to bring and share creative and innovative storytelling to people across the UK ensuring that reading for pleasure and the creative industries are key priorities as we support the country’s recovery in 2022.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency commented: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been selected to help bring Festival UK* 2022 to life as part of such an inspiring team. As a charity we are thrilled to see the power of reading as an integral part of the collaboration with STEAM organisations, inspiring future generations and connecting communities through the proven power of reading.”

Full details of the festival commissions are being kept under wraps to allow the Creative Teams to turn their ideas into reality, but projects will take us from the land, to the sea, to the air and even outer space, using pioneering technology and the power of the imagination. The festival programme will be announced, along with a new name, later this year.

The Reading Agency partnership with Damian Barr’s Literary Salon

We’re delighted to announce our new partnership with Damian Barr’s Literary Salon, where readers and writers come together through special live events and online content including revealing interviews, must-listen podcasts & brand-new stories. It’s where the world’s best writers, emerging and established, share new books and reveal their own personal stories.

Want to hear Maggie O’Farrell read from Hamnet for the first time? Find out why Garth Greenwell never names his narrator? Stand at the Door of No Return with Yaa Gyasi? The Salon is the right place. And we’re delighted to be partnering with them over the coming months, bringing you a mix of exciting new content, a monthly reading list jointly curated between ourselves and the Salon, exclusive access to some of the Salon’s best interviews and bookish giveaways!

Award-winning writer, journalist and Salon host Damian Barr says of the partnership:

“Stories are at the heart of my life – reading them and writing them. The Reading Agency recognises the power and value of reading at every stage of your life. We feel the same way here at Salon. This partnership will help Salon and The Reading Agency share their passion for stories and hopefully encourage and empower more readers.”

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More about Damian Barr’s Literary Salon:

Since their first glamorous gathering at Shoreditch House in 2008, the Salon has grown from a series of events to a global community of readers and writers. Their main home for in-person Salons is the glittering and storied Savoy. They also pop up in other venues across the UK and around the world, including Moscow, Istanbul, Sydney, Auckland, São Paulo, San Francisco, Toronto and Kuala Lumpur. And they host an ever-growing range of online Salons, readings and interviews across their Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and website.

The Salon’s podcast is a must-listen and features over 150 in-depth interviews ranging from emerging stars to established names including works-in-progress and world premieres. It can be found on all your favourite podcast platforms, Lit Hub radio and British Airways flights, and stars Maggie O’Farrell, Diana Athill, Jojo Moyes, Anthony Anaxagorou, Tracey Thorn, Okechukwu Nzelu, John Waters, David Mitchell, Yaa Gyasi, A M Homes, Garth Greenwell, Mary Beard, Natalie Haynes, David Nicholls, Armistead Maupin and many more…

They’ve also brought books back to telly with the Salon-inspired Big Scottish Book Club and Shelf Isolation on BBC Scotland which you can catch on BBC iPlayer.

We’re really pleased to be working with the fantastic team at the Salon, keep checking in on our socials to see what we’ll be getting up to!

Reading Sparks – building science confidence among children and young people

We are delighted to announce Reading Sparks – an initiative to engage children and young people in STEM through the proven power of reading.

With funding from Arts Council England and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), The Reading Agency will be delivering an innovative pilot project between 2021-2023 which harnesses the proven power of reading to engage families with STEM activities (science, technology, engineering and maths) and build science confidence among families in communities living with deprivation in England.

The Reading Sparks pilot project will test and pilot new ways of using creative reading to increase STEM engagement. 11 pilot library service partners in England will distribute reading and STEM book and activity bags to families who have been particularly disadvantaged by the pandemic. They will also work with local youth organisations, schools and social care partners to develop positive, confidence-building activities for young people aged 14-18 based in reading and STEM. The young people will work with library staff and youth workers to design new reading and science activities engaging families with children aged 4-11 in the library space and via the library service’s digital offer.

In addition to our library partners, we are also working closely with publishers and specialist science organisations to develop and deliver the programme. The young people’s programme and the reading and STEM book and activity bags have been jointly designed with science education experts at NUSTEM at the University of Northumbria. The British Science Association, who are official partners to this project, will be recognising children and young people’s achievements through their Crest Awards. DK, Otter Barry, Raintree and STFC are all providing content for the project.

Our overall aim is to build confidence and engagement with STEM among children, young people and families and to demonstrate the role that creative reading and arts activities can play in sparking engagement with a wide range of subjects and topics. We will use learning from the pilot to start rolling out activities across our library and other partners later in the year.

The project has been supported with £289,000 from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants programme and £232,000 from the STFC.

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said:

“Reading Sparks demonstrates The Reading Agency’s commitment to tackling life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. We are building on our successful programmes for children and young people and piloting new approaches to integrating reading with STEM and arts subjects to help bridge the gap in science capital in our most deprived communities. There has never been a more important time to use reading and the library network to reach out to families and young people and provide them with new opportunities to learn, have fun and build confidence that can boost their life chances.”

Sue Williamson, Director for Libraries at Arts Council England said:

“Arts Council England is delighted to be supporting The Reading Agency in the delivery of the Reading Sparks project. Reading for pleasure has been proven to have an enormous influence on children and young people’s well-being and on developing their life chances. This project, which is aimed at children and young people who have been most affected by the pandemic, will be supporting those with a profound interest in science and technology to develop that interest through reading. Through harnessing the power of the public library network, The Reading Agency, working with a wide range of partners in publishing, in science engagement and in youth support work, will ensure that children and young people across the country will have the opportunity to develop that curiosity and playfulness which will support learning, help to give young people the skills and the confidence to experiment in this field and encourage a creative approach to science and technology.”

Jenni Chambers, Head of Public Engagement & Skills, Science and Technology Facilities Council said:

“STFC is pleased to be supporting Reading Sparks, as part of our long-term commitment to audience-driven public engagement. Reading Sparks forms part of our investment in projects that listen, understand, and respond to what people want to know about science and technology. At STFC we know that science and technology is exciting, accessible, and leads to many types of rewarding work. The Reading Agency will be working with libraries and community partners to reach people from all backgrounds, including those who don’t have the same opportunities to explore science and technology as others – which is a key priority for us. By exploring the role that reading can play in engaging young people, children and families in STEM, Reading Sparks aims to make a contribution to reducing the numbers of children who feel that science and technology is not for them. We look forward to seeing what this cross-disciplinary approach can achieve in broadening participation in science and technology over the next few years.”

Take a look at our Reading Sparks page.

Women’s Prize for Fiction Announces 2021 Longlist

The Women’s Prize for Fiction — one of the biggest annual, international celebrations of women’s creativity has announced the 2021 longlist. Now in its 26th year, the Prize shines a spotlight on outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world.

The longlist

This year’s longlist honours both new and well-established writers and a range of genres and themes — family (twins and siblings, mother-daughter relationships); motherhood; rural poverty and isolation; addiction; identity and belonging; race and class; grief and happiness; coming-of-age and later life. The novels span a range of different global settings, from South London to Deep South; Ghana, Hong Kong, Barbados, Brooklyn and a fantasy realm. The list features six debut novels, as well as a previously longlisted author (Amanda Craig) and one previous winner who has also been shortlisted twice before (Ali Smith).

The judges

Chair of judges and novelist Bernardine Evaristo, says:

We read so many brilliant novels for this year’s prize and had an energetic judging session where we discussed our passions, opinions and preferences. Sadly, we had to let some very deserving books go but we’re confident that we have chosen sixteen standout novels that represent a truly wide and varied range of fiction by women that reflects multiple perspectives, narrative styles and preoccupations. These novels fascinated, moved, inspired and challenged us and we’re excited at announcing their inclusion on the Women’s Prize longlist.

Bernardine is joined on the judging panel by podcaster, author and journalist, Elizabeth Day; TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer, Vick Hope; print columnist and writer, Nesrine Malik; and news presenter and broadcaster, Sarah-Jane Mee.

The judges will narrow down this longlist of 16 books to a shortlist of six, which will be announced on Wednesday 28 April 2021. The 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction will be awarded on Wednesday 7 July 2021 at an awards ceremony in central London. The winner will receive an anonymously endowed cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze figurine known as a ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven. More information can be found on the Women’s Prize for Fiction website.

Get involved

Your reading group can apply to shadow the shortlist of the Prize after its announcement on 28 April. Selected groups will receive copies of one shortlisted title and will be asked to discuss and review it. Find out more and apply now. Applications close on 27 April.

What do you think of the 2021 longlisted titles? Which have you read and what will be added to your TBR pile? Add your comments below, or click any title above to leave a review.

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WomensPrize.

Keep up with all the latest news on the Women’s Prize website.

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The Reading Agency partners with WWF for nature-focused Summer Reading Challenge

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is ‘Wild World Heroes’. To deliver it The Reading Agency has teamed up with WWF to encourage children across the country to engage in fun reading activity focused on environmental issues.

The annual Summer Reading Challenge, which reaches over 700,000 children across the UK each year, will return in June/July 2021. This year, with the help of the new digital platform, the charity will be aiming to increase its impact even further and reach 1 million children. The popular challenge encourages reading for pleasure over the summer holidays, building reading skills and confidence and helping to prevent the ‘dip’ in reading skills while children are out of school. By providing fun reading activities this summer the Challenge will also play a key role in supporting reading catch-up after a difficult year.

This year’s theme – ‘Wild World Heroes’ – will inspire children to explore ways of helping to save the planet. With ideas from WWF, the Challenge focuses on taking action for nature and tackling real-world environmental issues, from plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss. Through taking part in the Challenge, with free packs from public libraries or online, children will be able to join six fictional characters – ‘wild heroes’ – to help solve some of these threats, learning about the importance of the environment while helping to restore nature levels in the neighbourhood of ‘Wilderville’.

The characters and landscape will be illustrated by award-winning children’s author and illustrator Heath McKenzie. Over the summer term, WWF will be offering opportunities and resources for UK public libraries and primary schools to engage with the nature theme in the Summer Reading Challenge and to explore some of the most important issues of our time through the power of reading.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: “We are really delighted to announce WWF as a partner for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. We have seen first-hand, via our children’s programmes and our work on the 500 Words writing competition, that climate change and the environment are subjects that children are keen to explore. We hope that this year’s theme of Wild World Heroes, chosen by children and public library colleagues, will help to open up important conversations and inspire children and adults across the country.

“We are immensely grateful to public libraries for their continued and longstanding support of the Summer Reading Challenge – and we look forward to continuing to work closely in partnership with them, as well as schools, school libraries, community groups and parents and carers all across the country to encourage even more children to sign up to the Challenge, via our physical and digital blended model.

Tanya Steele, CEO, WWF, said: “Young people are the future of our planet – and they are some of the most passionate and enthusiastic advocates for our natural world. At WWF, we’re continuously inspired by our young supporters and their efforts to speak up for nature, often in wonderful and creative ways.”

“Children have a huge thirst for knowledge about the environment, and what they can do to tackle the threats to our planet and help nature to thrive. We’re delighted to be partners in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge and hope children across the UK will enjoy exploring life on our planet – the one place we all call home.”

The Summer Reading Challenge will launch online in June this year, with public library launches in June and July. With school life disrupted, this year’s Challenge is more important than ever, helping parents and carers to find family-friendly activities, maintain literacy levels and create a safe space for children to connect with their peers.

For more information, visit

Find out how we did in 2020…

Transporting, calming, mood-boosting: how books can help 2020’s stressed-out kids

For World Book Day, we’ve partnered with an organisation bringing free reading resources to kids and an author to find out why reading is so important and how you can encourage kids to dive in.

Children and young people have had a tumultuous year: almost two-thirds (60%) of children aged 8-11 say they feel stressed, sad or worried at least once a month. The Reading Agency recently launched Read, Talk, Share – an initiative to tackle loneliness and support mental health and wellbeing through reading. As part of a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the Reading Well programme is expanding so that books from its mental health schemes for children, young people and adults will be available in every library in England and in eBook or e-audio formats, so that as many people as possible can benefit.

The fastest way to de-stress

“Researchers at the University of Sussex have found that even six minutes of reading can reduce a person’s stress levels by two thirds,” explains children’s therapist and author, Becky Goddard-Hill. “They believe this is because the distraction of entering a new world lets people step away from their own worries, and this releases tension in both their minds and bodies. In fact, they have found that reading works faster than any other way of de-stressing such as listening to music going for a walk or even enjoying a warm drink.”
The Reading Well for children scheme provides books that can help children deal with worries, feel better and get through tough times, with a book list chosen and recommended by leading health professionals and co-produced with children and families. Opening up conversations with children about anxiety and worry through reading can be really important to support children in identifying and coping with how they’re feeling. The books in the scheme can also provide the parents, carers or teachers around them with the best tools to help.

Somewhere to escape

“We’re all able to think more clearly when we’re calm,” says Becky. “That’s true for children, too. They will be able to make much more sense of their feelings once they’ve chilled out and therefore be able to talk about them more easily. Away from others, noise and distractions, a reading hub is a great place to have difficult or emotive conversations in private while still feeling comfortable. Build them a designated reading corner to give them all the space they need and a chance to calm down while still feeling safe. This can be as simple as putting a throw or a blanket, a cushion and some library books in a corner.”

The Reading Well initiative has been hugely successful – 91% of people surveyed found their book helpful. So far, 2.6 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from libraries. Regularly reading for pleasure has been shown to boost self-esteem, give a greater ability to cope with difficult situations, and improve sleeping patterns. Studies also show regular readers for pleasure report fewer feelings of stress and depression, and that reading creates stronger feelings of relaxation than watching television or engaging with technology intensive activities.

“Books can act as great prompts to get children talking about feelings and enable you to ask useful and revealing questions quite naturally. This can provide a child with a wonderful opportunity to explore their feelings and emotions – and to share them, without it feeling awkward or strained,” Becky says.

The free mental health eBooks put together by experts working with the The Reading Agency are available from your local library. Find out more here.

Becky Goddard-Hill is a children’s therapist and author of Create Your own Calm and Create Your Own Kindness, (Harper Collins) wellbeing activity books for kids age 6-12.

Nip in the Bud works with mental health professionals to produce short films and fact sheets to help parents, primary school teachers and others caring for and working with children to recognise potential mental health conditions. Find out more at their website.

Celebrations planned to Get Islington Reading for World Book Day

Schools in Islington are invited to exciting author events this week to mark new initiative Get Islington Reading. Authors Sita Brahmachari and Tom McLaughlin will each host inspiring events for local pupils, who are invited to share photos of the work they create in these sessions to [email protected]. Pupils will be notified about the events through their teachers.

Get Islington Reading is a three-year project which is generously funded by the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington. The Reading Agency and the National Literacy Trust will work together with local partners including Islington Council Library Service, Islington School Improvement Service and Islington Education Library Service to develop a community of happy, confident readers across the borough, building on the work of local network Islington Reads. The Reading Agency will work with libraries and community groups to build reading engagement and enjoyment, while the National Literacy Trust will work with a selection of local schools to create a network of exciting, engaging activities to support and develop literacy skills.

Get Islington Reading will support families of children aged 9-14, inspiring young people to keep reading in the transition between primary and secondary school when reading for pleasure can often drop off. Research shows that the longer children can sustain a love of reading, the greater the benefits; 10-year-olds who enjoy reading have a reading age 1.3 years above their peers who don’t enjoy reading. This rises to 2.1 years for 12-year-olds and 3.3 years for 14-year-olds.1

Other online activities on offer this week include an exciting performance by poet Paul Lyall, and two special events celebrating the life of local author Andrea Levy.

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said:

“National Literacy Trust research shows that as children move from primary to secondary school their reading for pleasure levels can significantly decrease. Get Islington Reading will support children and young people during this challenging transition period, creating life-long readers and building a reading community across the borough. By inspiring young people to develop and sustain a love of reading, we’ll set them up for success in their studies, and a happier, more successful future, both at school, and in their lives beyond.”

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, said:

“At The Reading Agency we see first-hand the impact that reading for pleasure has on children and young people. All the research shows that the benefits are life changing, not just during childhood years but in respect of the long term benefit it installs. Get Islington Reading will inspire a new generation of readers, ensuring the young people of Islington benefit from the proven power of reading.”

Author Sita Brahmachari said:

“I am so excited to have been invited to be a part of Get Islington Reading. Islington is a very special place for me in real life and in my fictional stories for young people. I have been working in Islington and inspired by children, educators and librarians in the borough since I began writing novels ten years ago. In fact many years before when working in community theatre I was a regular visitor to Islington Schools!”

Councillor Asima Shaikh, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs, and the council’s lead on libraries, said:

“The council’s aim in all things is to help build a fairer Islington, and a large part of that is making Islington a fairer place for children to live and to grow up. Given the huge impact reading has on children’s development and educational attainment, inspiring a love of reading is vital in helping to build a fairer future for our children. We’re delighted to be part of delivering Get Islington Reading and thank the National Literary Trust, the Reading Agency and the Mercer’s company for their funding and support.”

1. National Literacy Trust (2017), Celebrating Reading for Enjoyment

Quick Reads announces ‘Buy One, Gift One’ campaign for 2021

“Buy one, gift one: Buy a Quick Read this summer and we’ll gift a copy to help someone discover the joy of reading.”

The Reading Agency has announced a new Quick Reads gifting campaign to help tackle the UK literacy crisis. For every book bought from publication on 27 May through to 31 July 2021, the six Quick Reads publishers will donate a matching copy. The Reading Agency will distribute the donated copies to people who struggle with reading or have limited access to books – spreading the joy of reading to new audiences!

Since launching in 2006, over 5 million Quick Reads have been distributed. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative is supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes. ‘Buy one, gift one’ will enable The Reading Agency to get even more of these transformative books into the hands of those that need them most. The campaign will see thousands of free books distributed to organisations across the UK to help new readers find the pleasure and benefits that come from reading.

In addition to the gifting campaign, The Reading Agency will continue to work with the adult learning sector including public libraries, prisons, trade unions and colleges to ensure the books are available where they’re needed most.

These short books and great stories written by bestselling authors are available for £1. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the life-changing Quick Reads programme with books written by Oyinkan Braithwaite (The Baby is Mine, Atlantic), Louise Candlish (The Skylight, Simon & Schuster), Katie Fforde (Saving the Day, Arrow), Peter James (Wish You Were Dead, Macmillan), Caitlin Moran (How to Be a Woman, abridged, Ebury), and Khurrum Rahman (The Motive, HQ). The Quick Reads will be available in paperback, ebook and audiobook (£1.99).

Author Jojo Moyes commented: “After a year that’s been so tough and in which access to learning and literacy development has been particularly limited, I am thrilled to support Quick Reads and the Reading Agency’s mission to break down barriers to reading.

Quick Reads offers a route to reading for people that have either never found, or have lost, a love of books. This new development, with the support and generosity of Quick Reads publishers, will enable the books to reach even more readers-to-be, and help the programme continue to transform lives.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: “Introducing this new buy one, gift one campaign has been a real labour of love for the Quick Reads team at The Reading Agency. We believe passionately in the many, many benefits of reading, and are immensely grateful to our wonderful publisher partners for their support.

This new development will enable the books to reach even more people, helping us continue our mission to tackle life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading.”

Get Involved

Find out more about the Quick Reads programme, the 2021 titles and how to pre-order them.

Media contact at Midas: [email protected] | [email protected] | 07971 086649

Celebrating Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the world’s most treasured and celebrated contemporary fiction authors. This achievement can be attributed largely to his widespread appeal; his books can be found lining the shelves of both literary and commercial fiction lovers, bibliophiles and those just beginning their reading journey. His books have also found a welcome home in libraries across the UK where, over the past thirty years, innumerable readers have first discovered the magic held between their pages.

His latest novel, Klara and the Sun, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend who, from her place in a shop window, remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her. To celebrate the publication of Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, we look back at his impressive body of work, and the impact it has had on readers across the UK.

Born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, Ishiguro moved to Surrey, England with his family at the age of five. His first novel, A Pale View of the Hills, was published in 1982, and every one of his following six novels and his short story collection have been shortlisted for or won major literary prizes. An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans, and Never Let Me Go, the last of which was turned into a hit film adaptation, were all short-listed for the Booker Prize, whilst The Remains of the Day was crowned the winner in 1989. The novel was also featured on The Reading Agency’s World Book Night list in 2012.

More recently, Ishiguro has been given a knighthood for services to literature and bestowed with the Order of the Rising Sun, a prestigious recognition of civil service in Japan. Upon awarding Ishiguro the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, the Swedish Academy described him as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

This examination of our collective humanity has been brought into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ishiguro’s novels, which capture readers through their treatment of the themes of memory, loss, and our capacity for empathy, each have something to say about the way we currently live our lives. “What [Ishiguro] does very well is explore pain,” says one reader in Handforth. “He takes mundane characters, ordinary people, and demonstrates how the present is perpetually pervaded by the past. Memories shape us and, in some ways, define who we are. There is no moving away from them, no matter how hard we might try. And that’s what makes his stories so compelling.”

Memory has been an important source of refuge this past year as we seek ways to reconnect with our families, our friends, and our own lives. Recalling memories of hugging a friend or even standing in a crowded bookshop have allowed us to relive these moments in our minds and find comfort in knowing we will experience them again. The pandemic has also prompted many to reflect on what they consider to be important, how they spend their time and the people they spend it with. Considering the impact The Remains of the Day had on her, Sue Williamson, Director for Libraries at Arts Council England, says, “I found the self-reflection, the examination of whether the values that one has lived one’s life by stand scrutiny or whether there is a sense of regret, of missed opportunity, very poignant.” Caroline Mitchell of Tooting Library adds, “[Ishiguro’s] books make you think about things in relation to your own life,” and if the past year has taught us one thing, it is to grab hold of life with all its vivacity and unpredictability, and to savour every second.

Reading has been a lifeline for many over the past year, filling the empty furloughed hours and providing a much-needed form of escapism. However, the impossible weight of our current reality has, for some, made reading hard. Chris Ingle, who lives in the South West, says, The Buried Giant was a sort of turning point for me. I was getting a little burned out, but this book renewed my faith and my attention span, and I believe the skill that Ishiguro possesses to be able to do that is truly special.” Julie Freeman, a librarian at Dorset Libraries, agrees: “[Ishiguro’s] books are the kind I return to on rainy days, the kind that you read when you want to think – and read when you don’t want to think at all!”

For many people, Ishiguro’s books mark a turning point in their reading journeys. Liz Broad says she probably would not have chosen to read Never Let Me Go had it not been picked by her book club, Doveridge Reading Group. She says, “when I’m asked for my favourite book group choice of the past fifteen years, I still choose this!” A fellow book club member from the West Midlands agrees: “I first read Never Let Me Go twelve years ago and I’ve never forgotten the impression it left on me.”

Jodie Brooks, a school librarian from Oxford, also knows the lifelong impact of Ishiguro’s books: “I read The Remains of the Day as an apathetic seventeen-year-old. [It] is ‘the’ book that unlocked a deep and enduring love of reading … the prose lit in me this fervent desire to read and read and read.” Testifying to the belief that a truly great book is one that leaves an enduring impression on our way of seeing the world, Jodie adds, “I had never thought a book could provoke such a deep and enduring emotion in me … who knows, it could be because of this book that I became a school librarian.”

This potential for Ishiguro’s novels to influence the way readers relate to their environment, their community, and those beyond it, is part of their enduring appeal. “For me,” says Williamson, “the mark of a piece of writing that is outstanding is whether the impression it leaves stays with me. Everything I have read by Ishiguro falls into that category.” This durability of Ishiguro’s words is felt too by Brooks, who says, “he is subtle in the most magical way … his words can last your lifetime.”

For anybody who has not yet experienced the joy of reading Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun promises to be one of his most powerful works to date. And if you are unsure where to start, a librarian at Bloxwich District Library sums up how best to read any Ishiguro novel: “approach it with an open mind. The author will lead you into the novel and show you how he perceives the world; enjoy the ride.”

Ishiguro cover.jpg Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro is published by Faber and Faber on 2 March 2021. Buy it from The Reading Agency’s shop on where a small donation will go towards helping us to continue to reach 1.8 million people through the proven power of reading.

Leading reading and education charities unite with World Book Day to tell the story of reading during lockdown.

BookTrust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, The Reading Agency, and Egmont join World Book Day to provide first comprehensive picture of reading during the pandemic, and evidence the impact of reading for pleasure on children’s life chances.

A year since the UK’s first lockdown, and with schools about to re-open, research collated for World Book Day (Thursday, 4 March) shows that many children and parents embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic, with huge benefits for their wellbeing and development. However, according to the latest research, one year into the pandemic reading has decreased slightly this year1 – meaning some children are not experiencing the life-chance improving benefits of reading for pleasure. In addition, access to books remains a serious issue, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the context of Covid-19 – with the educational gap widening2 – the evidence collated for World Book Day highlights the need for support at this critical point in time.

The World Book Day charity has brought together the UK’s leading reading and educational charities – BookTrust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency – and the leading children’s publisher Egmont, as well as Nielsen Books, in a collaboration providing insights into the impact of the last year on children’s reading. For the first time, the combined data brings together the perspectives of families, teachers and young people. The research found:

  • Many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. This is supported by evidence from BookTrust, National Literacy Trust and The Reading Agency3. The majority looked online for reading inspiration, with YouTube (45%), social media (28%) and friends (31%) cited as a key source of ideas4.
  • Books have provided a valuable resource to support children’s wellbeing5. Young people reported that it helped them relax (40%) and made them feel happy (35%). As missing friends became a common concern for young people, 17% also said they used it as a way to stay connected6. 82% of teachers have found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided an emotional support as well as developing literacy skills7.
  • Parents read more with children and encouraged children to read more too. Whilst engaging children with their online lessons often became a battleground for families, parents who read aloud to their children every day noticed an improvement in wellbeing, behaviour, family bonds and attainment with schoolwork (even when home educating). This learning by stealth helped parents feel they could make a positive difference8.

But while the pandemic has seen such positives, it has also highlighted major concerns:

  • Access to books remains a serious issue9, particularly amongst disadvantaged children and families. The charities’ research showed that a quarter of primary schools raised concern that access to books had become a barrier to reading for pleasure and overall literacy levels. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. Amongst schools offering borrowing schemes, some spoke about having ‘run out’ of stock by January 21.
  • One year into the pandemic reading has decreased slightly this year, according to the latest research from Nielsen Books10.

Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than family circumstance or their parents’ educational background or income11, and World Book Day as a charity has, for over twenty years, been offering all children and young people the chance to have a book of their own. Last year, 1.03 million World Book Day £1 books were gifted in the UK & Ireland in only five weeks. Latest data shows that 3 in 10 of children receiving free school meals said the book they ‘bought ‘ with their World Book Day token was the first book they had of their own – clear indication of World Book Day’s ability to reach disadvantaged children.

The latest research for the National Literacy Trust shows the positive impact World Book Day has had during the pandemic: When asked in early 2021 what they had done differently as a result of World Book Day 2020, 3 in 5 primary children (62%) said that they had read more books as a result. Over half (54%) had talked more about books with family and friends. A third (34%) had also read more books with family and friends12.

Cassie Chadderton, World Book Day CEO, said:

“It’s wonderful to see how many children and families have felt the benefit of shared reading during the lockdowns, but this evidence shows that too many children in the UK don’t have access to books. World Book Day aims to change lives through a love of books and shared reading. Our mission to ensure that all children can experience the life-changing power of books and reading has never been more critical.”

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, said:

“Whilst it’s encouraging that many families have embraced reading during lockdown, our insight from speaking to families and partners also suggests that there are many who are reading less and who have struggled to access books and stories during the Covid-19 pandemic. BookTrust has been working with our network of local authority partners as well as schools, family support teams, refuges and food banks to provide books and reading support to families in most need. We are committed to ensuring that children can experience the life-changing benefits that reading brings and we are delighted to be supporting World Book Day in that endeavour.”

Louise Johns-Shepherd, CLPE CEO, said:

“Books and stories are food for the soul, they change lives and nourish futures. It is vital that we come together to ensure that all our children have the access and the opportunity to benefit from the enormous power of reading.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said:

“Our research shows that over 380,000 children in the most disadvantaged communities don’t own a book of their own. This World Book Day we want to highlight our commitment to enabling children’s access to books. Books unlock a lifetime of benefits, from increasing wellbeing and confidence, to allowing children to feel represented and understood. Throughout the pandemic the National Literacy Trust has distributed thousands of books to children who need them most, and will continue to do so as long as the fault lines of social inequality in the UK remain.”

Karen Napier, The Reading Agency CEO, said:

“Every year we at The Reading Agency work to engage children and families in reading for pleasure, and it is encouraging to see the value of reading for pleasure being recognised through this sector-wide research. However, this evidence also highlights the ways the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the scale of digital disadvantage and inequality of access to books, and helping ensure that every child has access to books and reading is more important than ever. This makes our work to increase access to the benefits of reading vital to Covid recovery. We’re looking forward to working with World Book Day to help bring books in to the hands of children across the nation.”

Cally Poplak, Executive Publisher, Egmont Books, said:

“Children who read for pleasure simply do better in life. Readers have better well-being, stronger communication and language skills and achieve more in education. We all need to pull together to overcome the barriers to reading and make sure every child has the chance to reap the benefits.”

Read more about how World Book Day has adopted its 2021 plans to work around the current circumstances and bring its celebration to all, including an extensive suite of free digital events, online toolkits, and a digital book token.

Find out about the new Arts Council funding, partnerships with the BBC, McDonald’s, Twitter and Oak Academy, and World Book Day’s first ever official song, by MC Grammar.

World Book Day Ambassador MC Grammar, aka Jacob Mitchell, said:

“Teaming up with the World Book Day charity is an honour . As a teacher and as a father, we share the same mission: to promote the magic of books and reading. To know that my song might just be the reason a child picks up or
receives a book of their very own this World Book Day is just incredible!”

World Book Day author Joseph Coelho said:

“Stories and reading take us to other worlds, show us possibilities beyond our doorsteps, offering up characters: like us, different from us, familiar and never seen before. Reading rewrites our core code slotting in spaces where we can write our own narratives. However, when access to books becomes difficult the whole of society suffers; when our youngest miss out on those stories that shape the adults they could become. We must keep striving for a metaphorical return to the campfire, sharing all of our stories and putting those stories into the hands of all of our children.”

This year’s World Book Day authors and illustrators are Julia Donaldson, Lydia Monks, Tom Fletcher, Greg Abbott, Joseph Coelho, Fiona Lumbers, Jonny Duddle, Zanib Mian, Nasaya Mafaridik, Jess French, Aleesha Nandhra, Sita Brahmachari, Katherine Rundell, Humza Arshad, Henry White, Aleksei Bitskoff, Alexander Bellos, Ben Lyttleton, Derek Landy, Holly Jackson, Judi Curtin, Huw Aaron.
Read more about the books here.

For the latest on this week’s World Book Day activities, including the Show Your Story Shares mass participation campaign, please visit:

World Book Day is funded by publishers and booksellers, and generously sponsored by National Book Tokens.

Find more information, and join the conversation via: | @WorldBookDayUK | #WorldBookDay | #ShareAStory


1. Nielsen (2021), Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer Survey 2020
2. NFER (2020), The challenges facing schools and pupils in September 2020
3. BookTrust (2020), Research into reading behaviours during the first lockdown; National Literacy Trust (2020), Children and young people’s reading in 2020 before and during the COVID-19 lockdown; The Reading Agency (2020), The Summer Reading Challenge 2020 Survey
4. The Reading Agency (2020), The Summer Reading Challenge 2020 Survey
5. National Literacy Trust (2020), Children and young people’s reading in 2020 before and during the COVID-19 lockdown; The Reading Agency (2020) The Summer Reading Challenge 2020 Survey; Egmont, The Egmont Reading Club, 2020 Lockdown Study
6. The Reading Agency (2020), The Summer Reading Challenge 2020 Survey; Egmont, The Egmont Reading Club, 2020 Lockdown Study
7. CLPE (2021), Reading for Pleasure in 2021
8. Egmont, The Egmont Reading Club, 2020 Lockdown Study
9. CLPE, Reading for Pleasure in 2020
10. Nielsen (2021), Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer Survey 2020
11. OECS (2002)
12. National Literacy Trust (2021), Annual Literacy Survey

The Reading Agency

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