Celebrities join forces to raise awareness of benefits of reading with children

1.5 million free books given to reception-aged children as part of Booktime

This year sees Booktime gift its 10 millionth book to a child to encourage a lifelong love of reading

Leading personalities including Mount Pleasant actress and Loose Women presenter Sally Lindsay, comedian Lenny Henry, TV presenters Holly Willoughby, Piers Morgan, Matthew Wright and ITN’s Julie Etchingham, along with Malorie Blackman, Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, have joined forces to lend their support to an initiative that encourages parents and carers to spend time reading for pleasure with their children. 

Booktime (www.booktime.org.uk) – now in its eighth year – aims to inspire a lifelong love of reading.  It will give two free books to 765,000 reception-aged children in England and Wales in the 2013-2014 year of school. This year’s books for children in England are Charlie and Lola’s But Excuse Me That is My Book, published by Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Children’s, and Tom’s Mad Mop, from the Bug Club series by Pearson UK, part of Pearson's education business. Four to five-year-olds in Wales will receive Charlie and Lola’s But Excuse Me That is My Book as well as a Welsh language title.  In addition, every primary school and library can also access free guidance and activity sheets on the Booktime website, with extra resources for libraries and parents also available.

It is widely recognised that one of the most important things a parent can do to help their children learn is to read with them and inspire a love of reading and books.  But, recent research has revealed that up to one third of children are not read bedtime stories, and only 13% of parents read to their children every night[1].

The books, picked by an independent panel of experts because they are brilliant to read aloud to children and have wonderful illustrations, make it a joy for readers of all levels.

But Excuse Me That is My Book stars the hugely popular Charlie and Lola characters created by Lauren Child which inspired the Tiger Aspect produced TV series. Children will join Charlie, Lola and their friends on a trip to the library to look at all the different types of books that Lola might like to read. It is a warm and funny story about family, friends and the importance of trying new things, in a refreshed edition published especially for Booktime. But Excuse Me That is My Book is intended to inspire children through Booktime to seek out lots of new books and stories to enjoy.  In England, Booktime packs will also contain a book for children to support them on their reading journey, from Pearson UK. Tom’s Mad Mop, written by Celia Warren and illustrated by Bill Ledger, is a bright and familiar story about playing with friends, which parents and teachers can use to help children in their own reading.

Actress and Loose Women presenter Sally Lindsay is mum to three-year-old twins Louie and Vic.  She says: “I love nothing more than snuggling up on the sofa or sitting with my two sons at bedtime and reading with them.  It gives them uninterrupted ‘mummy time’ and a chance for us to go on some amazing adventures as soon as we open a book.

“As a mum of twins, I know all too well that it is tough trying to juggle work, household chores and demands from others, but there’s no better feeling than giving your child a love of reading, which has to be one of the best starts you can give them in life.”

This year marks a very special milestone for the Booktime initiative with its 10 millionth book being gifted to a child this term.

Peter Hughes, head of corporate responsibility at Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, said: “The more we read, the more we know and as we learn, so we progress and grow.  So what better gift to give our children starting school, than 10 million chances to start to read, learn and grow?”

Viv Bird, Chief Executive of Booktrust, added: “At Booktrust we know that just one book can make all the difference to a child’s life – just think how much of a difference ten million books have made! Thanks to our strong partnership with Pearson through Booktime, we are extremely proud that so many books have given pleasure to so many children.”

Given digital technology is becoming more dominant in the family home, this year, for the first time, children, together with their parents and carers, can log onto the Booktime website www.booktime.org.uk for free e-books to read online from Pearson.  They will also be able to listen to the books being read aloud as well as access free games and activities.

And the reading continues...

To further encourage reading for pleasure among older primary school children at a time when their interest in books can lapse, Pearson, the Pearson Foundation and Booktrust can announce that schools can now sign up to take part in Read for My School http://www.readformyschool.co.uk/ this academic year.  The free national schools’ reading competition sees over 100,000 books donated to schools and children who are challenged to read as many of the books as they can in two months from a unique online library and list of recommended reads.  Schools and pupils will be awarded prizes for ‘Most Books Read’ and for a written piece around the power of reading.  Parents should check with their school that they have signed up.

Booktime contacts

Maria Boyle
maria@mbcomms.co.uk or 020 8876 8444

Rosi Crawley
rosi.crawley@booktrust.org.uk or 020 8875 4827

Notes to Editors

About Booktime

Booktime is brought to you by Booktrust, the independent charity which empowers people through reading and writing, and Pearson, the world’s leading learning company. The programme was launched in 2006 by Pearson in partnership with Booktrust. Booktime aims to inspire a lifelong love of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together. The programme supports, encourages and enables reading for pleasure in the home at an important transition stage in a child’s learning and development.

About Read for My School

Read for My School is run by Pearson, The Pearson Foundation and Booktrust with support from the Department for Education. Read for My School helps children, together with their teachers, classmates, parents or caregivers, to appreciate the power of reading—and of giving.  Now in its second year, Read for My School is offered for free to all primary and secondary schools in England. The competitive element of the programme is designed to be fun and motivate children of all abilities with a variety of interests to read for pleasure. It will also give children the opportunity to read their way to rewards for themselves and their schools.  All schools who take part in the competition will be in with a chance of winning a substantial donation of fantastic books from a pot of 100,000 titles provided by Pearson, Penguin and DK.  In its first year, over 400,000 books were read by 100,000 participants in years 5 and 6.

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials and services, and business information through the Financial Times Group. Pearson serves learners of all ages around the globe, employing 48,000 people working across more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.pearson.com

Since the Booktime programme began, Pearson’s UK staff have been giving their time to read with children in local primary schools through its Booktime Volunteer Reading Scheme. For the 2012 academic year, 191 volunteers spent 2,865 hours reading with children.

About Booktrust

Booktrust is an independent reading and writing charity that makes a nationwide impact on individuals, families and communities, and culture in the UK. Booktrust makes a significant positive contribution to the educational outcomes of children from the earliest age. We work to empower people of all ages and abilities by giving them confidence and choices about reading. And we want individuals of all backgrounds to benefit from the wellbeing that a rich and positive engagement in reading and writing can bring. Booktrust is responsible for a number of successful national reading promotions, sponsored book prizes and creative reading projects aimed at encouraging readers to discover and enjoy books. These include the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Children’s Laureate, and Bookstart, the national programme that works through locally based organisations to give a free pack of books to babies and toddlers, with guidance materials for parents and carers. See www.booktrust.org.uk

About Bug Club

Bug Club is a whole-school primary reading programme that instantly engages each child with a personalised reading world. Interactive activities, characters they know and love and a sophisticated rewards system keeps children motivated. Bug Club is now in over 4,500 schools and used by over 600,000 children encouraging a love of reading.   Find out more at www.pearsonprimary.co.uk/bugclub

[1] Littlewoods survey – September 2013