Why you should think outside the box when it comes to literacy

When it comes to literacy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s all about inspiring children to read more books. Although this is undoubtedly important – National Literacy Trust research shows that children with strong reading skills achieve better academic attainment across a range of subjects and tend to be happier with their lives – literacy is about so much more than that.

Having poor language skills at age five has an impact on a child’s academic achievement, mental health and future employment prospects. Children who struggle with language at age five are five times more likely to fail to reach the expected standard in English aged 11, four times more likely to have reading difficulties in adulthood and more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34[1].

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world. It encourages children to dream big, stretch their aspirations, think positively about the future and give them a route out of poverty. It’s for this very reason that the National Literacy Trust’s website for families, Words for Life, categorises its activities by the following actions:

  • Chat
  • Play
  • Read
  • Watch
  • Listen
  • Write
  • Make

Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, more and more children turned to literacy-focused activities to help them feel relaxed during an uncertain and unsettling time. A quarter of children surveyed by the National Literacy trust said that writing helped them when they felt sad because they couldn’t see their family and friends. More specifically, half of boys surveyed – who are often less engaged in literacy activities than their female peers – said that listening to audiobooks increased their interest in reading.

Half (51.1%) of boys said that listening to audiobooks has increased their interest in reading and 2 in 5 (43.2%)[2] said it has made them more interested in writing. Evidently, audiobooks might be a way to re-engage boys and reluctant readers with stories and get them into reading and writing.

The National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life site is filled with lots of activities for families with children of all ages. The charity recommends the following activities to help your child have and learn more from home:

The memory game

The memory game asks families to gather a child’s favourite toys, books and objects, remove some of the items and get the child to see if they can list what’s missing. This game will help children to communicate better and solve problems. There’s also a video featuring a real-life family, which helps users to see the activity in action.

Listen to The Tindims of Rubbish Island

For some children, words on a page can take away the fun of reading. Children can join Captain Spoons, Mug, Jug, Brew, Skittle and friends on Rubbish Island in this fun free audiobook, supplied by Listening Books.

Write a newspaper about the environment

This activity is a good way of encouraging older children to look at newspapers and take an interest important issues, while building their vocabulary and writing skills. On this page, parents will also find a useful video including a real-life family trying the activity for themselves.

Make a calm down glitter jar

This arts and crafts activity is ideal for a rainy day! Encouraging children to follow a simple method helps them get better at responding to instructions. This particular task will also support a child’s mental wellbeing – shaking the jar and watching as the glitter slowly settles and everything calms down will help do the same to a child’s thoughts.

To discover more fantastic tips and activities to support children’s learning, please visit the website Words for Life.

To browse millions of new and used books visit www.awesomebooks.com. For every book you buy AwesomeBooks will donate a book to a child in need. Make an impact with every book and find out more about the Awesome Book for Book here.


[1] Law et al. (2009) Modeling developmental language difficulties from school entry into adulthood: literacy, mental health, and employment outcomes

[2] National Literacy Trust (2020) Children, young people and audiobooks before and during lockdown

This International Literacy Day we are celebrating the power of small changes

By Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust

Today marks International Literacy Day, a UNESCO-designated awareness moment that champions the importance of literacy as a basic right. It also offers a great chance to take stock of the current state of literacy in the UK. 

This is the second International Literacy Day since COVID-19. This time last year we were seeing publication of the first worrying data describing the pandemic’s impact  on education. Unfortunately these early predictions of an increased attainment gap between children from low-income backgrounds and their high-income peers are now being realised. In the first lockdown alone, a decade’s work to narrow the attainment gap was undone. .  

To make sense of the scale of this challenge, The National Literacy Trust has now launched a research ‘observatory’ to bring together the emerging evidence of the pandemic’s impact on literacy.

Much of the research we are drawing together shows that children who had good access to digital devices, books and paper, and confident parents experienced less of a negative effect on their learning during school closures.  Lockdown disproportionately impacted on the literacy of children from low-income homes. Without immediate action this risks exacerbating societal inequality for generations.

One small change right now can lessen this impact and transform a disadvantaged child’s future. Simple access and ownership of books can transform a child’s enjoyment of reading, help them see themselves as a reader and supporting the development of vital literacy skills.  

Unfortunately, we know that 380,000 children and young people don’t own a single book. This is why our partnership with AwesomeBooks is so significant – every time someone buys a book on this website AwesomeBooks will gift us a book to be distributed to children and schools who need them the most.

The importance of owning a book can’t be overstated. It is a gateway to reading and for many children establishes their entitlement to literacy, giving them the skills to succeed at school, access that crucial first job and ultimately support their own child’s learning. 

What’s more, our research shows that reading doesn’t just support literacy and learning, it also boosts wellbeing and enables every child to dream about the future. Many of us needed that extra support and shot of optimism during the pandemic. 

We’d like to thank AwesomeBooks for their support and partnership with the National Literacy Trust. COVID-19 severely disrupted the literacy and learning of so many – but collaborations between the private, public and charity sectors have the power to really support the youngest generation as they try and recover from the shock waves of the pandemic. 

All AwesomeBooks customers can donate to us today and contribute to our ongoing work with schools, children, and families in the UK’s most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. 

So, thank you AwesomeBooks, and happy International Literacy Day!

To browse millions of new and used books visit www.awesomebooks.com. For every book you buy AwesomeBooks will donate a book to a child in need. Make an impact with every book and find out more about the Awesome Book for Book here.

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About us

AwesomeBooks was born from a love for books: to not see books thrown away when they can still be read and their stories shared.

In 2003 co-founders Mubin and Taskeen found charity shops throwing away books they could not sell. Bin after bin was getting filled with books in perfectly good condition. Books represented empowerment and education, full of wonderful stories fuelling the imagination. Bookworms themselves, the 2 co-founders set about finding a solution.

After trying various ideas, AwesomeBooks started selling books online. This model proved successful, allowing more and more books to be diverted from landfill. Today, we are a global retailer, processing over 250,000 books every day, with nothing going to waste. Books are either re-sold, donated via our literacy programs or pulped and turned into something new.

AwesomeBooks continues to invest in more ways to collect books, so they don’t go to waste and get re-read. We have set-up collection banks with many councils around the country for books that people no longer want. And we have also launched ‘Sellitback.com’, our website and app, which enables members of the public to send us books directly and get paid for them.

Of course, not every book is available in a used condition. And we know our customers love books! Since 2011 we have offered new books on AwesomeBooks too. In addition to the 5m used books we stock, customers can choose from over 20m new books!

We know that books have the power to educate and improve life outcomes. From an early stage, AwesomeBooks has supported education and literacy projects. Since 2005 we have funded reading programs in schools. In 2011 we started work with a foundation in Ghana that donates books to schools in the Ashante region. And in 2019 we formalised our program under our ‘Buy One-Give One’ scheme: for every book a reader buys from AwesomeBooks.com, we will donate a book to someone who needs it.

Our journey has only just begun. AwesomeBooks is helping to drive a new model of retailing –selling books, creating ways to recover books and continuing to pass them on. We combine this environmental good with social good. So be part of the movement: buy different and join us as we keep looking for new ways to drive our circular model. Be Awesome