Oxford University Press launches Raise a Reader campaign

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Oxford University Press launches Raise a Reader campaign as part of three-year mission to help children become lifelong readers post-pandemic.


National Literacy Trust collaboration to champion reading across Oxfordshire schools

New consumer & educator research reveals reading barriers & opportunities

Raise a Reader roadshow set to inspire reading across England

Alesha Dixon, Louise Pentland and Sonali Shah pledge campaign support


Oxford, 29 September 2022: Today, Oxford University Press (OUP) has unveiled a comprehensive three-year campaign to help provide children and young people with the tools and opportunities to become lifelong readers in the wake of the pandemic.

Inspired by the expert insights gained from OUP’s highly regarded research into the word gap and informed by newly commissioned consumer and educator research exploring the barriers to becoming a life-long reader, the three-year campaign will bring schools, booksellers, local communities, parents, librarians, literacy partners and reading experts together to unite in a shared mission to raise readers.

The campaign launches with a collaboration with the National Literacy Trust, which sees OUP join the Primary School Library Alliance as a flagship partner. The ‘Oxfordshire Raise a Reader Programme’ will champion reading across 10 Oxfordshire schools in the first year with the goal of raising a generation of readers in schools and families in Oxfordshire’s most disadvantaged and under-served communities.

Schools will receive a donation of 500 books each (300 books donated by OUP and 200 donated by independent publishers), as well as a range of soft furnishings and books storage, in order to create their own dedicated reading spaces. Schools will also have access to in-person specialist training to help develop effective whole-school reading strategies as well as receiving a subscription to Oxford Reading Buddy, a digital reading service of nearly 500 books, and the opportunity to host exciting author visits.

As part of the Raise a Reader launch, Oxford University Press has also revealed insights from new consumer and educator research which has informed the campaign, exploring perceptions of reading alongside the barriers and opportunities to becoming life-long readers.

The research polled 2000 parents with children aged 3-11 and over 300 primary school teachers, as well as over 1000 children aged 7-11 who took part via a CHILDWISE omnibus survey. The findings reveal that while most parents appreciate the value of reading with their children, many still struggle to create a regular reading habit with their kids. Challenges which parents contend with include getting children to concentrate, avoiding distractions from screens and gadgets, not having enough time in the day or having a reading routine. One in four parents were unsure how often they should be reading with their child.

To address the findings from the research, OUP will be taking Raise a Reader directly to communities, with a tour in November, visiting ten locations across England with lower levels of literacy. The reading roadshow will invite parents and children to visit a bespoke Raise a Reader campervan, packed full of free books, engaging activities, and reading resources. Parents and carers can take advantage of expert advice and resources helping break down the barriers to reading for pleasure, and the campervan will also stop off at schools across the country to celebrate the joys of reading with teachers and pupils via exciting workshops with authors and illustrators. Oxford authors and illustrators will join the tour at each stop, including Winnie & Wilbur illustrator Korky Paul, husband-and-wife creators of The Perfect Fit, Naomi and James Jones, plus Paul Westmoreland, the author of OUP’s major young fiction autumn launch Rudy and the Wolf Cub.

A raft of Oxford authors and illustrators will support the campaign as Raise a Reader ambassadors, taking part in physical and virtual events, as well as sharing their reading tips and advice. OUP will also provide a range of free, collaborative resources including a digital toolkit parents can download packed full of fun, interactive activities.

Helen Freeman, Director of Oxford Children’s and Raise a Reader Project Director, said:

‘We know how vital reading for pleasure is; reading unlocks learning, supports wellbeing and inclusion, develops vocabulary and enhances life chances. Our research reveals that 80% of parents and carers believe reading to their child improves the child’s wellbeing and mental health. Particularly now, in the wake of the pandemic which disproportionately exacerbated the learning gap in children from low socioeconomic status families, it’s more important than ever we ensure every child and young person has the tools and opportunities to become lifelong readers. We are delighted to work with partners such as the National Literacy Trust on our Raise a Reader initiative, which is part of our mission to improving children’s literacy – from learning how to read to building a reading habit; helping to close the word gap and raising children and young people to read widely and for pleasure.’

Jonathan Douglas, CEO of the National Literacy Trust, added:

‘We are delighted to be collaborating with Oxford University Press and to welcome them as a flagship partner of the Primary School Library Alliance. The National Literacy Trust is committed to raising literacy levels and the ‘Oxfordshire Raise a Reader Programme’ will work with schools within the most disadvantaged communities in the region. Through this vital programme, these families and communities will be given the books, training and support they need to nurture a love of books so that their young people can access the transformative benefits of reading for pleasure.’

Author, Creator and Raise a Reader Ambassador, Louise Pentland said:

I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Raise a Reader. Reading and children’s literacy has been a passion project of mine for many years – it’s fundamental and these latest stats only prove how important it really is. Ultimately the goal is to help as many children as possible become lifelong readers – and there are many ways to do this – from education, to access, to understanding. Reading for pleasure has quite simply been a magical part of my life, and my children’s lives – so to help open this door to other children [and adults] simply fills me with joy.’

TV & Radio Broadcaster and Raise a Reader Ambassador, Sonali Shah, said:

‘I’m delighted to be supporting Raise a Reader. Reading means so much to me and my own family – it can bring joy, escapism and comfort, it’s a wonderful activity to do together and I really love taking time out of our busy lives to share that precious reading time with my children. I try to get my kids reading whenever and however I can – whether it’s while we’re travelling somewhere, relaxing before bedtime or by letting them feel independent by choosing what book we read – even if we’ve read it dozens of times before! There are so many ways to raise a reader for life – do what’s right for you and your family, have confidence and most of all, have fun!’

Author and TV personality Alesha Dixon is supporting the Raise a Reader campaign:

‘Reading has been a passion for me ever since I was a girl at school, and becoming a mum has been an inspiration to pass that love of books on to my own children. I’m proud to support the Raise a Reader initiative so that all children will have the opportunity to get as excited about reading as I am!’

About the Raise a Reader research

OUP spoke to parents, teachers and children across the UK, between May and July 2022.

The teacher survey was conducted by OUP, gathering responses from 339 teachers across the UK in May 2022. The children’s online survey was conducted by CHILDWISE on behalf of OUP, surveying 1255 children aged 7-11 years in June to July 2022 via the CHILDWISE Playground Buzz.

Figures for the parent research are based on fieldwork conducted by Opinium on behalf of OUP. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th and 12th July 2022, amongst 2,000 UK parents of children aged 3 to 11. 

  • Findings show that 28% of children aged 7-11 want their parents and carers to read to or with them more often
  • A third of parents said they would read more to children if they had more time in the day
  • Four in ten parents said they find it difficult to get their child to concentrate; 3 in 10 say that reading with their child is a challenge; nearly a quarter say screen time and gadgets get in the way of reading
  • 86% of parents believe reading will have a positive impact on their child’s academic success later in life, and 80% believe that reading to their child improves the child’s wellbeing and mental health

Despite the challenges, the survey showed that parents understood the far-reaching and long-term benefits of reading at home with their children:

  • 97% considered it important for their children to be confident readers, 85% agreed that ‘reading helps my child do better at school’
  • More than 7 in 10 believe that being read to helps their child to go to sleep better, builds empathy and helps them to form friendships
  • 84% of parents and carers enjoy reading with their child
About Raise a Reader

Informed by recent parent and educator research into the barriers to reading for pleasure post-pandemic, and building upon Oxford University Press’ long-term expertise and commitment to reading and children’s language, Raise a Reader aims to help as many children as possible become lifelong readers in the wake of the pandemic.

Over the three years, Raise a Reader will champion reading for pleasure and the transformative benefits this brings to a child’s life via exciting partnerships and initiatives, bringing schools, booksellers, authors, local communities, parents, librarians, literacy partners and reading experts together.

About Oxford University Press (OUP)

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world’s largest university press with the widest global presence. It currently publishes thousands of new publications a year, has offices in around fifty countries, and employs approximately 6,000 people worldwide. It has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing program that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, bibles, music, school and college textbooks, children’s books, materials for teaching English as a foreign language, business books, dictionaries and reference books, and academic journals.

About the National Literacy Trust

Our mission is to improve the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of those who need it most, giving them the best possible chance of success in school, work and life. We run Literacy Hubs and campaigns in communities where low levels of literacy and social mobility are seriously impacting people’s lives. We support schools and early years settings to deliver outstanding literacy provision, and we campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians, businesses and parents. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy and drive our interventions. Literacy is a vital element of action against poverty and our work changes children and young people’s life stories. Our new site Words for Life provides simple, fun and educational activities for children and young people aged 0-24 to support learning at home and help them feel more confident. Visit literacytrust.org.uk to find out more, donate or sign up for our free email newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About The Primary School Library Alliance

Founded in November 2021 by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK, the Alliance works with its flagship partners to address the chronic lack of investment in primary school libraries and bring together relevant parties to help solve this urgent issue. The Alliance aims to transform 1000 primary school libraries by 2025. Partners include Arts Council England, high street brand Burberry, the Marcus Rashford Book Club, digital bank Chase, Oxford University Press and 26 organisations. For more information, please visit www.literacytrust.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/libraryalliance