Covid’s negative impact on children’s literacy prompts authors to back book campaign

Best-selling authors are backing a campaign to improve children’s literacy ahead of World Book Day on 4 March to help children who, due to Covid pandemic restrictions, are at higher risk than ever before of falling behind with their reading and vocabulary.

Some 380,000 young people living in poverty in the UK do not own a single book of their own but with the help of authors, the charity UK Reads and The World Literacy Foundation (WLF), the campaign will help children in poverty gain basic literacy skills.

‘Very challenging’ for an illiterate adult to help their child read from an early age

UK Reads is determined to reach 5,000 children by this summer with books and reading activity packs before it is too late.

Children Reading

The charity was launched in 2020 to help children get access to books at home and support parents to become their child’s first teacher and literacy support.

Head of UK Reads, Caroline Burkie said: “There are 5 million functionally illiterate adults in the UK which means they have a reading age of 11 or below and can understand only the most straightforward texts on familiar topics.

“If a parent is struggling with illiteracy, finding it hard to secure a job and broaden their horizons, it can become very challenging for them to support their child to read from an early age and break the cycle of poverty.” Sunday Times bestselling authors Emma Gannon, Sarah Turner and Bolu Babalola are backing the UK Reads’ children’s literacy campaign ‘Before it’s too late’.

Emma Gannon, an author and the charity’s ambassador said: “I recently learned that reading for pleasure is known to be the most reliable predictor of a child’s success in later life – so by increasing book ownership and children’s literacy support, a life-long difference can be made to a child’s future.

“The pressures on parents who are already struggling financially to put a hot meal on the table each day, understandably don’t have the disposable income to spend on books and there’s also a serious problem for children and families who don’t have access to tech that can support their learning – especially during school closures, as they’re not able to take part in online school activities.

“Books are not just a nice-to-have, they are vital and I’m thrilled to stand behind this campaign.” There are over 750 million illiterate people who cannot read a single word and more than two billion who struggle to read and write a sentence.

The World Literacy Foundation is a global non-profit organization working to ensure every young person has the opportunity to acquire literacy skills. It provides free access to quality education materials in remote communities and disadvantaged areas in the United Kingdom, Africa, the United States, Australia and South America.

Children starting school up to 19 months behind more affluent peers

Author Bolu Babalola. Credit: UK Reads

Sunday Times bestselling author Sarah Turner highlighted the plight of “younger children living in poverty who are starting school with vocabulary up to 19 months behind their more affluent peers”.


“World Book Day is one of the most fun days at school – my three boys love to dress up as their favourite characters and dive into wonderful stories. While the day will be different for most children this year, taking part in online school activities, they, just like my kids, will be reaching for their bookshelves and engaging in this lovely day.

“The reality for thousands of children, however, those who live in poverty, is that they won’t be taking part with the same enthusiasm and this is why I am supporting ‘Before it’s too late’.”

Sunday Times bestselling author Bolu Babalola said: “I was very shy as a child and reading gave me a place to escape and to also find myself through characters and new perspectives. Stories gave me hope and confidence – characters felt like friends.

“I wish for every child to have the opportunity to find stories they enjoy and learn from, books that feel like support and inspiration for who they can become and what their futures hold.

“Every child deserves a book of their own and what better day to gift our love of books to the next generation by supporting this campaign. I don’t know where I would be without them being such a significant part of my childhood.”

UK Reads is appealing for donations to help reach children with books and literacy support this year. To donate visit: www.ukreads.org/beforeitstoolate.

Article By: Angeline Albert