Award-winning actor and author, Nathan Bryon, has become the first ambassador for Puffin World of Stories. The programme is an award-winning partnership between Penguin Random House UK and the National Literacy Trust which aims to address the chronic lack of investment into primary school libraries. Research suggests that 44% of schools serving the UK’s most disadvantaged communities do not have a school library (Great School Libraries Survey, 2019).
Over the course of Nathan’s ambassadorship, he will promote the importance of reading for pleasure to participating schools via virtual content and in-school visits, as well as interactive resources based on his books. Bryon’s debut picture book collaboration with illustrator Dapo Adeola, Look Up!, recently won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Both Look Up!, and his most recent book Clean Up! will be included in the donation of 300 books to every participating school. Nathan has chosen to focus on the importance of diversity and representation in children’s books as a key feature of his ambassadorship.
Now in its third year, to date Puffin World of Stories has reached over 56,000 pupils and donated 80,000 books to 225 schools across the UK in areas local to its offices and warehouses in London and Essex, as well as areas of low literacy across the UK including Nottingham, Tyne & Wear, Middlesbrough and Gateshead. The programme equips participating’ schools with the tools they need to develop their library or reading space as a hub of imagination and creativity, offering bespoke training and new books. The programme has been found to boost teachers’ knowledge of contemporary literature and reading for pleasure strategies, as well as increase use of the library among pupils.
The launch of Nathan's ambassadorship comes at a time when UK students are returning to the classroom after a prolonged period of disruption to their education. Research from the National Literacy Trust and Puffin, published in July 2020, found that the lack of access to books, with schools and libraries closed, negatively affected some children’s ability to read and their motivation to read for enjoyment. It also found that the gap in reading enjoyment between boys and girls widened five-fold from 2.3 percentage points at the beginning of 2020 to 11.5 percentage points during the first lockdown. Reading for pleasure has been shown to improve reading attainment.
Nathan Bryon said: “As the inaugural ambassador, I’ve made it my mission to promote diversity in children’s books. Reading was a problem for me when I was growing up. I am dyslexic and I have always needed to read and write at my own pace. But I also found it difficult to connect with the stories we had at school because they didn’t reflect life as I knew it as.
"A book has the power to can change anyone, so they must be available to everyone – with young people from all backgrounds able to feel excited and inspired by the characters they read about.”