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FAQs

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Do you know of a course/ teacher training I could undertake to become a literacy tutor?

If you are interested in becoming an adult literacy tutor, you can find information on the Talent website - http://www.talent.ac.uk/.

Alternatively, the BBC Skillswise website provides information and useful links to other agencies and sources of support -   http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/tutors/professional-development

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How many illiterate adults are there in England?

This information is provided on our adult literacy pages.

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Are children's literacy skills improving or getting worse?

Many more children reach the expected level for their age in literacy than in 1997, before the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy. The key indicator, the percentage of pupils reaching level four (the level expected for their age) in national tests for English (reading and writing) at age 11, has increased from 63 per cent to 80 per cent in this time. In the mid-1990s just half of children reached the level expected for their age. Current literacy levels also represent a significant improvement in children's skills since the mid-20th century, since targets apply to all children, of all abilities and social classes, including those who speak English as an additional language.

The most significant gains were made between 1998-2009, the years immediately following the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy. The 1999 result of 70 per cent was an increase of 10 percentage points on the previous year and the 2000 result increased this again by a further five percentage points. Between 2000-09 results for eleven year olds in England have risen, but at a more gradual rate. 86 per cent of eleven year olds now reach the level expected of them in reading, up from 80 per cent at the start of the decade. The corresponding figures for writing are lower, but also show improvement, 67 per cent of 11 year olds now reach the level expected of them.

The drop off in the year-on-year increase in English has been partially blamed on differing performances between boys and girls: in maths and science, boys and girls reach similar standards; in English, there is a marked gap, particularly in writing.

For an overview of literacy levels in the UK read our report Literacy: State of the Nation

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What is literacy?

We believe literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen well. A literate person is able to communicate effectively with others and to understand written information.

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How can I assess the readability of my document or write more clearly?

The SMOG (simplified measure of gobbledygook) test provides a measure of readability of a text. Readability is an attempt to match the reading level of written material to the "reading with understanding" level of the reader. It does not necessarily equate to a "reading age" of the text. 

The easiest way to assess readability is to use an online SMOG calculator, which will calculate the readability level of any text that is pasted into it. It is based on research into different readability tests commissioned by NIACE and carried out by Professor Colin Harrison at Nottingham University. See www.niace.org.uk/development-research/readability

There is also a manual method you can follow to calculate a SMOG level (see below) on longer texts such as books. To get an accurate level, most people recommend taking at least three samples - for example, one each from the beginning, middle and end - and taking the average of the three scores. 

The formula was developed to help librarians categorise their stock more easily for learners and practitioners and to act as an indication of level of difficulty. There are no simple answers about relating readability levels to adult literacy levels: they do not equate exactly and are not meant to. The adult literacy standards were designed to indicate what specific skills functioned at particular levels, unrelated to age. 

As a rough indication, SMOG 9–10 = Entry Level 3, 11–12 = Level 1 and 13–14 = Level 2, but this is far from an exact science and SMOG should only be taken as one indicator among many for the suitability of a text. 

All readability tests rely on a very rough gauge of the level of reading vocabulary people can expect to acquire by a certain point in their development - they stop generally around the 20 mark. But successful reading is about far more than word recognition - it's about style, content, physical presentation, complexity of intellectual engagement required, learner interest, confidence and skill. Advice on presentation of text is also available from the NIACE website.

Calculating the SMOG level of a text

  1. Select a page of a book
  2. Count 10 sentences
  3. Count the number of words which have three or more syllables
  4. Multiply this by 3
  5. Circle the number closest to your answer

1

4

9

16

25

36

49

64

81

100

121

144

169


6. Find the square root of the number you circled

1

4

9

16

25

36

49

64

81

100

121

144

169

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13


7. Add 8 = Readability level

Most people will understand a readability level under about 10.

Analysis undertaken by Niace has shown average scores for newspaper editorials as follows:
The Sun: under 14
The Daily Express: under 16
The Telegraph and The Guardian: over 17
More information is on the NIACE website.

NB: The original SMOG formula gave a score related to US school grade levels. In this version, the constant added at the end has been changed from 3 to 8, to give a readability level.

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Why is literacy important?

Longitudinal research shows that people with good literacy skills are more likely to have higher self-esteem, better health, better jobs and higher wages than those with poor literacy skills. They are more able to take advantage of the opportunities that life may offer them.

The Literacy Changes Lives report, published by the NLT, pulls together existing research about the impact of literacy on five areas in a person's life: economic well-being, aspirations, family life, health and civic/ cultural engagement. It presents overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship with a person’s happiness and success. It gives a clear indication of the dangers of poor literacy and also the benefits of improving literacy for the individual, the community, the workforce and the nation. For more please see here 

For an overview of literacy levels in the UK read our report Literacy: State of the Nation

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What resources do you have that I can use in my school/library?

Our network provides a wide range of resources, practical advice and support to our members in schools and other settings.  Join our network.

We run regular competitions, with free supporting materials, for all schools in the UK. If you're a member of our network, you can access additional supporting materials. 

We sell resources that allow schools to deliver some of our programmes and provide support to pupils and their families. We also have a huge range of downloadable resources - some are free for everyone, while others are restricted to members or those delivering our programmes (these are clearly indicated). 

We are often asked about free posters.  We are not funded to produce or distribute these, but you can download them free of charge. Otherwise, why not try contacting publishers such as Puffin Books, Random House, Walker Books, Templar, etc. as they may have promotional posters they could send out to you.

Another easy way to make a fresh poster display would be to photograph your pupils reading and then display the photographs; the power of peer recommendation cannot be underestimated. An important aspect of a reading corner would also be the inclusion of comfy seating, textured drapes, calming colours such as purple or dark blue, to make the corner as informal and inviting as possible. 

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Do you have regional branches?

No, although we work with authorities and literacy professionals throughout England, and our resources are available to all on the internet.

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How can I volunteer to support literacy?

Supporting our work

Any volunteer opportunities in our offices are advertising with our job vacancies

If you are interested in supporting the work of the National Literacy Trust by fundraising, please see our fundraising and events page for more information on how to get involved.

We also work with businesses to provide volunteering opportunities for their staff. Find out more about our corporate partnerships.

Supporting literacy through other agencies

If you’re interested in supporting children's reading, there are some useful national volunteering organisations you can contact:

Alternatively, try contacting your local library or schools to see if they have any need for particular volunteers, or if they know other people who do. 

There is no national organisation recruiting volunteers to support adult literacy learners, as far as we are aware. If you want to support adults , you should contact your local adult education service or further education college, to find out if they use volunteers and what training you may require.  Alternatively, the Read Easy project may have a branch in your area:

The following organisations may also know of volunteering opportunities in the voluntary sector. There are too many small-scale local approaches for us to track them all. 

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I believe my child is gifted/ talented: are there any organisations you could direct me to?

Any enquiries relating to gifted and talented children should be referred to the National Association for Gifted Children, the UK's foremost membership charity that deals with all aspects of giftedness in children. Individuals, parents and organisations are welcome as members.

They strive to support those who are directly involved with gifted children – parents, teachers, schools and medical professionals – as well as advising policy makers at national and local levels.

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Can I advertise through you?

  • It may be possible for you to advertise in our newsletters, for more information please email the development team.
  • If you would like to share information about a literacy project please post an article on Wikireadia.
  • If you are running a regional or national event or conference please email our Events Team.

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Are children spending less time reading than they used to?

Recent research shows that while reading skills have improved in the UK, there is some indication that fewer pupils nowadays read for enjoyment. So, are children spending less time reading than they used to? This is a surprisingly hard question to answer for two reasons. Firstly, large scale surveys of children and young people's reading habits are few and far between. Secondly, more often than not the surveys that have been conducted on the subject have asked about reading frequency in different ways, which makes comparison of different surveys near impossible. However, these problems have been recognised and steps have been taken by a number of researchers to begin collecting meaningful longitudinal data.

Our own annual surveys of children and young people's reading habits have been collecting large-scale data of this kind since 2009. View reports

For an overview of literacy levels in the UK – including reading and writing frequency and parents reading with their children – read our report Literacy: State of the Nation.

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I want to start a reading group in my local community. Where can I find advice about how to go about setting this up?

Firstly, it might be an idea to contact your local library as they may already be running a reading group that you can get involved with. If not, or if you wish to set up your own, then visit the Reading Agency website, or call them on 0871 750 1207. You can also search for existing groups in your area on the People's Network website

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Where can I find information about international literacy comparison figures (comparing the UK to other countries)?

There are a number of organisations that can offer literacy statistics on the UK and other countries. Among them are the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  and the National Foundation for Educational Research.  

For an overview of literacy levels in the UK only, read our report Literacy: State of the Nation.

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I have a book/project/enterprise that I would like the National Literacy Trust to endorse. Who should I speak to?

If your book is currently unpublished then you may be eligible to enter the New Children's Author Prize, a competition we run with Bloomsbury. Read more about the competition.

Please feel free to post an article on Wikireadia, a collaboratively produced reference site for literacy. If you are running a regional or national event or conference please contact us. If you offer free resources or your products are particularly aligned to one of our projects, please email us.

If you would like to advertise your product in our monthly e-newsletter then you can find out more by emailing us.

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I work for a literacy project or charity. What funding is available?

The National Literacy Trust does not provide any funding for external projects. For funding advice we recommend that you contact your local Council for Voluntary Services - a directory is at www.navca.org.uk/directory - which should be able to offer you funding advice. You could also contact The Foundation for Social Improvement - www.thefsi.org.  

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Where can I find support for a dyslexic child or adult?

The British Dyslexia Association provides a helpline on 0845 251 9002 or you can visit www.bdadyslexia.org.uk.

Dyslexia Action provides services and support for children and adults with dyslexia, as well as resources for parents and teachers at www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk.

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What funding is there available for literacy research?

The National Literacy Trust does not provide funding. We recommend that you either contact the Arts and Humanities Research Council or the Economic and Social Research Council  depending on your discipline. If you are a university student then there should be a grants register available at your library. Alternatively, try contacting your local authority.

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How do I join the National Literacy Trust network?

If you already have a free registered user account for our website simply log in, visit your profile page and click on the link to “upgrade your account”, then follow the steps to sign up.

If you are completely new to the website, visit our registration page, click on the “Join network” button and follow the steps to sign up.

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Where can I find research on literacy?

We provide free access to our downloadable research reports, which include literature reviews, surveys and programme evaluations.  

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How do I request an invoice for my network subscription?

If you are purchasing a school or organisation subscription, at the checkout stage you will have the option either to pay by credit/debit card or request an invoice. If you choose to pay by invoice you will have the option to give us a purchase order number, which will be quoted on the invoice. The invoice will be sent to you by email on completion of your online order.

If you are purchasing an individual subscription, payment must be made by credit/debit card. Confirmation of your subscription and payment will be emailed to you on completion of your online order.

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How can I support the National Literacy Trust?

There are a number of ways you can support the National Literacy Trust. You can donate, you could raise money for us, or you can join our campaign for Reading Rights. For otherways of supporting our work please see here.

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I can't remember my log in/password for the website - what is it?

You can use our password reminder service to reset your password. If you need help, email webmaster@literacytrust.org.uk

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I’d like an author/footballer/celebrity to attend an event I’m running - can you help?

We are often asked if we can help schools to arrange visits by authors, footballers or other celebrities to talk to pupils about reading. While we are unable to provide contacts or arrange visits for you, we have provided some general advice that will help if you're thinking about inviting a footballer to visit your school. We have also produced a list of storytellers and performers who visit schools. It was created for schools that are working with us to deliver project activity, but can be used by anyone to find contacts in their area.

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What job/volunteering opportunities are available with the National Literacy Trust?

All our vacancies (including volunteer roles) are listed on our website as they arise. They are primarily based in our office in London SW8. View our staff list to see what sort of roles we offer. 

We also provide some local opportunities to volunteer to support literacy learners and families. 

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How often do I need to renew my network membership?

Membership can be purchased as a one-year, two-year or three-year subscription. We will contact you when it is time to renew your subscription.

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I am a writer/author and I would like to tell you more about my work. Who should I contact?

We are often contacted by writers/authors who would like our support to promote their work. As a small charity we do not have the resources to help individuals.

We run a competition in partnership with Bloomsbury in order to find new talent in the world of children's fiction. Read more about the competition and and how to enter

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I think my child is struggling with reading and writing and falling behind at school. What can I do at home to help?

The first thing you must do if you think your child is having problems with reading or writing is talk to his or her teacher, who will be able to tell you if your child is falling behind. From their ongoing assessment, the teacher should be able to give you an idea of your child’s reading level, and how this relates to what is expected at that stage.

The teacher should also be able to provide you with advice on activities you can do at home to support your child’s reading, writing and spelling. These activities will complement the teaching methods that are being used at school.

If this does not reassure you, you could arrange a meeting with the Headteacher. Find some positive things to say about your child’s life at the school before raising your concerns. Remember, teachers want your child to succeed as much as you do.

The National Literacy Trust cannot provide detailed advice on individual problems since we do not have the necessary contact with the child or understanding of their particular strengths and weaknesses. However, you could consider what might be causing your child’s difficulties and talk to the teacher about how your child copes in class. Could there be a problem with hearing or sight? It might be worth making your child an appointment with your GP, or booking an eye test.

Does he or she show any of the signs of dyslexia? The British Dyslexia Association provides a summary of indications of dyslexia on the British Dyslexia Association's website. See our FAQ on dyslexia.

The National Literacy Trust advocates four key principles for parents’ involvement with supporting reading:

1. A good relationship between parents and schools is vital, and should be maintained through an ongoing dialogue about children’s development.

2. The most important thing a parent can do to support their child’s reading is to help them find books that are appropriate in terms of reading age and content, and that motivate their child to enjoy reading. Making use of the local library can help here. Reading aloud can help children enjoy stories they might struggle to read themselves.

3. Any teaching resources parents use at home to support their child’s literacy should work alongside the methods used in school.

4. As the provider of formal education, teachers are the experts and should be trusted with the task of teaching children to read and supporting their literacy.

Further information and resources for supporting your child's reading are available on our Words for Life site for parents and families, including competitions, downloads and book recommendations - www.wordsforlife.org.uk

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How do I renew my network membership?

You will be able to renew your membership from 60 days prior to the expiration date of your current subscription. You can renew your membership online by logging in, visiting your profile page, clicking on the link to “Renew now” and following the steps to renew.

If you renew your membership before your current subscription expires, a 10% “early bird” discount will automatically be applied to the subscription price.

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How many people can use my network membership?

If you have a school or organisation subscription, up to five members of staff are entitled to set up their own login to access the benefits of membership. Instructions for how to get these additional logins can be found on our about page.

The process differs slightly depending on whether the person signing up already has a login for our website as a registered user (a registered user can log in, but does not have access to the resources and discounts that membership provides), or will need to sign up and create a brand new login. 

Any colleagues signing up under an existing membership will need to quote the membership ID (beginning SCH or ORG).

If you have an individual subscription, only you may access your membership.

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.