Reading Together: BookTrust joins forces with all 12 Children's Laureates to call for investment in early years reading

Published on: 17 January 2024

BookTrust has joined forces with every single Waterstones Children's Laureate from the past 25 years - including BookTrust's President Sir Michael Morpurgo - to call on the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to commit to a long-term investment in books and reading for children under seven.

A photo of a woman and a child reading Elmer's Weather together

In an unprecedented open letter published today, all 12 Waterstones Children's Laureates have joined together with BookTrust to ask Rishi Sunak's Government and the Leader of the Opposition to commit to helping every low-income family become a family which reads together because "it is not right that children from poorer backgrounds are deprived of a life that is rich in reading".

The authors and illustrators – who represent Britain's best-loved creators of books for children – highlight compelling evidence for the wide-ranging benefits given to children who are read to early on, citing a profound impact on educational success, language development, mental well-being and relationships.

Children who read are more likely to overcome disadvantage – but alarming statistics reveal how little family reading is actually happening.

Despite 95% of parents with children under seven knowing how crucial reading is, new statistics in research conducted for BookTrust show that one in five children aged 0-4 have a book read to them less than once a month.

These findings underscore further BookTrust research which indicates that less than half of children are read a bedtime story, and only half of children aged between one and two from low-income families are read to daily. Statistics, also from this year, indicate that around a quarter of parents (26%) with children aged 0-7 find reading with their child challenging.

The importance of making sure no child misses out

A photo of a dad reading to two children in the library

With an increasing number of children in the UK living in poverty due to the cost-of-living crisis, the Laureates are calling for comprehensive support for low-income families, explaining that without a national approach more and more children will miss out.

Cressida Cowell, internationally bestselling author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon series, said: 'A child who is read to has a much better start in life than a child who is not.

"That's not fair because all children should have the same chances, the same opportunities, no matter what their circumstances.

"Together we can help make this happen, but it must be something that Government invests in – which is why all the Laureates have come together to support this urgent call for national investment in early years reading."

Writing as the President of BookTrust, Michael Morpurgo's letter comes as we launch our Reading Together campaign, outlining what needs to be done to support families to become regular reading families in the early stages of a child's life.

Sir Michael Morpurgo, said: "Reading Together, BookTrust's inspired new and timely initiative, will aim to ensure that millions more of our children have the sure start they need to discover early the enjoyment of reading, and so have the opportunity to hear and read stories and poems, that is their right."

Four proposals to get families reading together

A woman and a child sharing a Bookstart pack

Reading Together is informed by our decades of experience of working with millions of families and thousands of local partners, including health visitors, nurseries, schools, libraries and food banks.

Within the Reading Together paper, we're sharing four proposals intended to prompt a national debate about how the UK can lay down foundations for a child's start in life and establish a comprehensive programme for reading with the under-sevens. The proposals aim to:

  • Embed reading in the life of every low-income family by providing books, resources and reading experiences
  • Provide sustained support, books and resources to help vulnerable children and families who can benefit most from the special characteristics of reading together
  • Help midwives, health visitors, librarians, family support workers and early years teachers promote family reading
  • Help primary teachers become even more powerful advocates for reading for pleasure

BookTrust's CEO Diana Gerald MBE said: "Children who missed out on critical development opportunities during the pandemic have fallen behind in terms of language development, literacy and communication skills. Their social and emotional well-being has been affected. There is significant risk their attainment at school and their long-term life chances will suffer.

"We know that reading can help address these issues, and we want our Reading Together campaign to start the conversation around how we can transform children's lives because there has never been a more urgent time for us to inspire a new generation of children on their reading journeys."

Download the full press release

Donate now to help us make a difference to children and families


Read our open letter

Read our Reading Together open letter, as we join forces with all Waterstones 12 Children's Laureates to call for investment in early years reading.

Why Sir Michael Morpurgo is supporting Reading Together

Sir Michael Morpurgo, BookTrust's President and former Waterstones Children's Laureate, explains why he's supporting the Reading Together campaign.

Reading Together

Reading Together, Changing Children's Lives is based on decades of experience of working with millions of families and thousands of local partners, including health visitors, nurseries, schools, libraries and food banks.

Discover our four proposals