National project planned to ‘bridge the book gap’ after successful Southwark pilot
What began as a pilot project in a building site in Borough Yards, is about to become a national initiative to provide books for children and bridge the development gap between rich and poor, thanks to a partnership with the Wates Group, and London-based charity, the Children’s Book Project.
The pilot project which began in 2019, saw Wates provide a donation point on its construction site at Borough Yards, SE1, for members of the public to leave books. A letter box was placed within brightly coloured hoarding around the site, with all books provided sorted by Wates’ site staff and project volunteers, before being distributed to local schools registered with the charity.
Nearly 8,000 books were donated and now Wates and the Children’s Book Project plan to take the scheme nationwide, as part of a long-term social value strategy. More collection sites have already been set up at Wates’ construction sites in Kings Road and Abbey Road with another planned in Piccadilly. To date, the project has collected 18,000 books across the three London collection sites. In addition to the London sites, collection points have been established in Leeds and Birmingham, with Manchester to follow.
Su Pickerill, Group Community Investment Manager at Wates, said:
One in eight children with challenging family backgrounds do not have any books at home and have little opportunity to choose their own books.
Our social value strategy, ‘Creating Opportunities’, is founded on the principle that ‘how we do business is as important as what we do’. This project supports our strategy through inspiring and educating young people and challenging inequality: it is a unique opportunity for us. Not only are we helping to provide relevant and inspirational books for children, and encourage their joy of reading, but we’re also contributing towards ‘levelling up’ and at the same time, reducing waste.
We are very pleased to be able to support the Children’s Book Project with this hugely worthwhile endeavour.”
The Children’s Book Project was established to help address the huge difference in the language development of children from ‘book-rich’ homes and those from homes with few books, with studies pointing to a gap as large as 10 months in children’s development.
Children’s Book Project Founder, Liberty Venn, said:
We are thrilled to be working with Wates across these locations and our ambition is to extend our reach still further. Our vision is that this project becomes a standard feature of all construction sites. Residential developments will follow, and social housing could be next. We currently have ten projects underway or planned largely city centre regeneration works which offer us longer scale opportunities, some of which may extend over 10-15 years. Whilst we currently have three main operational areas, in London, the South East and Leeds, we hope to roll this out to other parts of the country with Wates leading the way with their construction sites further north.”
Ran Holst, Chair of Trustees, Children’s Book Project, described the ideal site and the project’s goals:
Sites require footfall and ideally, should be located on the geographic cusp of affluent and less affluent areas so that there is a good cross section of opportunity both for donating and receiving books.
We need to persuade parents that when their children have outgrown their favourite books, they will give joy to others by donating them to our project – essentially giving them a second life – and at the same time, bridging the book gap.
We are aiming for 250,000 donated books this year and expect Wates to drive at least 20 per cent of that. If we achieve this kind of result, we will be absolutely delighted.”
The average percentage pupil premium within schools supported by the charity is 47.4% compared to the national average 23%. Of the 110,000 infants, children and young people who have received books in the past year, 80,000 have been living in economic disadvantage.