News and views Views England's literacy crisis affects us all By Ginny Lunn, Beanstalk CEO and a trained reading helper Today the National Literacy Trust and Experian published new research exposing the scale of the literacy crisis in England. News that this country is facing a literacy crisis in children should not come as a surprise, after all over 200,000 children left primary school last year unable to read to the required level. Moreover, 5.2 million adults in the UK are ‘functionally illiterate’ – meaning that they don’t have the reading and comprehension skills to carry out everyday tasks. But what this new research shows is that this is a crisis which is impacting on nearly every corner of the country, with 86% of constituencies in England having at least one ward with severe literacy problems – shockingly only 75 constituencies in the entire country aren’t currently facing problems. The areas which are at highest risk from the current crises are – on the whole –found in inner cities or districts surrounding urban areas. Although the research shows that there are clear ‘hot-spots’ where the crisis is intensified – such as areas in the West Midlands and Yorkshire & Humberside, the causes and symptoms of this crisis are intensely localised. The localised nature of the literacy crises we’re all facing means that we need to re-think how we’re going to solve it. While various national strategies have made some positive progress in improving literacy over recent years, it is now clear that a targeted and localised solution is required to help communities in need. That is why I’m so proud of the work we’re doing at Beanstalk to help ensure that young children are protected from this literacy crisis. At Beanstalk we provide a localised solution, where we recruit and professionally train volunteers from local communities and businesses to provide children with the tailored one-to-one support they need to improve their key reading skills and confidence. Our work is focussed on delivering life-changing support to children in areas who need it the most, indeed we work in 80% of the constituencies marked as ‘in greatest literacy need’ in National Literacy Trust’s research. To ensure that our one-to-one support further meets the needs of the local community, we work closely with schools to ensure that the children we support are the ones most in need of support, and that the progress they make results in quantifiable outcomes in-line with the national curriculum. In the last school year we helped over 11,000 children across England, in over 1,400 schools, with the help of over 3,000 reading helpers, ensuring those children have the skills and confidence to reach their true potential. But we know that there is far more we need to do in local communities across England to protect children from this literacy crisis, that’s why by 2020-21 we will be support 30,000 children every year. Without a dedicated, localised, strategy and increased resource to solve this endemic problem, the demand for our work will continue to grow. If you would like to help your local community and become part of the solution in a rewarding and practical way, visit www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk to find out more about becoming a Beanstalk reading helper or supporting our work.