To illustrate the extent of the literacy problem in the UK:

  • Every year, it is estimated that 200,000 children leave primary school at 11 unable to read or write to the required level
  • According to the OECD, the UK now has the lowest rates of literacy of any developed nation
  • Following school closures as a result of Covid-19, this problem has worsened, with the reading skills of many disadvantaged children regressing during these lockdowns

The longer-term consequences of this are hugely damaging for both the child and for society more widely:

  • Teenagers without basic literacy skills are significantly more likely to be excluded from school, commit crime, and to spend time in prison
  • Annually, it costs an average of £40,000 to incarcerate one individual, and approximately 50% of the UK prison population has literacy skills no higher than those expected from an 11-year-old
  • 16.4% of adults in England, or 7.1 million people, can be described as having 'very poor literacy skills
  • In addition to the financial and social costs of crime and time in prison, the economic cost of poor literacy has been estimated to be £81 billion per year to the UK economy
  • Poor literacy can lead to limited job prospects, poor health, low self-esteem, and even reduced life expectancy
  • Adults with poor literacy skills will be locked out of the job market and, as a parent, they won't be able to support their child's learning
  • Teaching children to read can be done relatively inexpensively and is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce young offending and crime, as it raises their potential and the opportunities available to them