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National Literacy Trust Heroes – nominations from our staff

Fiona Lewis, Head of Communications, nominates:

 My grandmother

I have always loved reading and stories and I think a lot of this is down to my Grannie. She was a bookworm too and so many of my memories of her are about books, reading and writing. When my brother and I stayed with my grandparents when we were little she would always make the time to read stories to us at bedtime or in the morning before breakfast. If we got bored she would give us a pencil and paper and tell us to use our imagination - we usually did. Every Boxing Day we would spend the day at my grandparents and Grannie would give everyone a book as a present. By broadening my reading I think she made me interested in literature more widely and probably influenced my later decision to study English Literature at university.

Claire Nevill, Media Manager, nominates:

Roald Dahl, author

Roald DahlAn obvious choice … maybe because his was the first book I laid eyes on? When I was born my older brother brought me his copy of The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me into the hospital as a present. It must have been love at first sight (not that I actually remember!) but I do remember being obsessed with Dahl's quirky stories, reading them over and over again. They always made me laugh and I loved Quentin Blake’s illustrations. Looking back, I think his books encouraged me not only to read more but they extended my imagination to write my own stories.

Jim Sells, Programme Manager, Premier League Reading Stars, nominates:

My dad

Most mornings I’d come down to breakfast and Dad would have left out a copy of Motor Cycle News with a ring around an article he thought I’d be interested in. Like many young males I was very interested in facts and I remember a pivotal moment in my reading life being when he "lent" me the book which his Dad had given him: Famous Fighters of the Second World War. He still complains that I lost the cover of this book - I argue that I never even saw the cover. As well as machinery-based reading he also got me into adventure by introducing me to the Biggles books. So yes, I still want to be a fighter pilot when I grow up.

Anna Jones, Development Manager, nominates:

Mia, reader

Mia reading in cafeI was fortunate enough to be brought up in a home full of books, with a mother who encouraged my love of reading, and a brother who would read me bedtime stories, albeit backwards! So it wasn’t until I started working at the National Literacy Trust that I found my Literacy Hero in a little girl called Mia. Mia is not as lucky as I was growing up. None of her family can read, and her access to books is scarce. However, after her teacher signed up her for one of our reading programmes, she started to discover a love of reading, and was delighted to be able to choose free books of her own to keep. She is now doing really well at school. She’s my hero because she has not let her disadvantaged circumstances prevent her from achieving.


Emily McCoy, Hubs Manager, nominates:

Helen Chicot at Rochdale council

Helen is “in charge” of literacy in Rochdale and is truthfully one of the most generous and kind individuals I have ever met. As a result of her efforts, the Rochdale Literacy Champions programme has grown during a time of huge cuts to staff and services. The programme has extraordinary results - it really is changing lives for people in Rochdale. We have stolen lots of ideas from Rochdale - not least the ideas behind the Hub model we use in Middlesborough and our own Literacy Champions programme. And I will never forget the day she spoke at our conference and got Frank Field MP in the audience knitting. She’s a legend.

Sam Pope, School Manager on the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, nominates:

Daniel Pennac, author

Daniel PennacFrench educationalist and writer Daniel Pennac was dismissed as a dunce as a young boy because it took him a year to understand the letter A. As is often the case, an insightful teacher tapped into Pennac’s potential and he went on to devour all the classics, write his own stories and even translate Chekhov! My favourite book by him is The Rights of the Reader, in which he makes 10 rather surprising declarations, including the right NOT to read, the right to skip and the right not to finish a book if you’re not enjoying it. When I worked with children with literacy problems, I used to show them this book and their eyes would nearly pop out their heads. It was OK not to enjoy reading a particular book? Reading anything was OK, even if it was a Wii manual or pop lyrics? This was glorious music to their ears. This remains my favourite non-fiction book and Daniel Pennac an inspiration to me. 

Sally Melvin, Programme Manager, Words for Work, nominates:

Clive Dalton, teacher

A secondary science teacher may seem an unlikely candidate for a Literacy Hero but Clive is an exception to this and many other rules! I first met Clive when he was the Assistant Head of a struggling school in Birmingham. Despite being one of the busiest people I’ve ever met (most of his emails still arrive in my in box around midnight) Clive jumped at the chance to take part in Words for Work. During that year Clive’s school was made an academy and Clive lost his job. This was a major blow for a man approaching 50 but he recovered quickly, found a new job and persuaded his new head to join the National Literacy Trust. Now he runs Words for Work in the school, has set up Literacy Champions in the local community and is part of Premier League Reading Stars. His dedication to the literacy cause, enthusiasm and refusal to give up even when the odds are against him make him my Literacy Hero. 

Ronan Cahill, Events Administrator, nominates:

Malala Yousafzai, activist

Malala was a pupil in Pakistan, where the Taliban held sway and banned girls from attending school. Because of her efforts to promote education and girls’ rights, in 2012 she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen while coming home from school. She was sent to Birmingham and despite being seriously wounded, she survived and continues to work so that every child in the world can go to school. She has been named one of Time magazine’s "100 Most Influential People In The World".

Eszter Solyom, Literacy Training Coordinator, nominates:

Sally Gardner, author

I admire many readers and writers, but at the moment Sally Gardner is on the top of my list. I have read two of her books, I, Coriander and Maggot Moon, with my 10-year-old daughter, and we were both fascinated by her originality and imaginative writing. Apart from being a very enjoyable reading experience, it truly helped my daughter understand what critical thinking means and the huge part literature can play in this. I have also found out that Sally Gardner is dyslexic and only became a fluent reader in her teenage years, and still she became a successful writer. I always find it inspiring when people achieve something against the odds.

Irene Picton, Project Manager, Young Readers’ Programme, nominates:

Mr Bennett/Mr Gum

I have two Literacy Heroes – Mr Bennett and Mr Gum. Both encourage children to read, one as an inspirational school librarian (and collector of versions of Anarchy In The UK) at my old east London comprehensive, and the other as a complete horror who hates children, animals, fun and corn on the cob and is the repellent protagonist of a series of books by Andy Stanton.

Claire McGowan, Communications Assistant, nominates:

Joseph Conrad, author  

As well as working at the National Literacy Trust, I write books and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do this without a good standard of literacy from childhood. I’m in awe of Joseph Conrad. Not only did he write lots of brilliant books, he was writing in his third language, which he only learned properly in his twenties. He had a difficult and interesting life as a sailor and refugee and he reminds me that everyone can achieve a lot with hard work and inspiration. 


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.
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