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About Literacy Champions

The Literacy Champions programme connects community volunteers with local families with children aged two to five years who would benefit from advice about supporting their children’s early literacy development.  The programme is delivered within communities in partnership with local services and agencies such as housing associations and aims to: 

  • improve children’s early literacy skills, helping them to reach their potential
  • empower parents to find ways of supporting their children’s learning, by increasing parents’ awareness, confidence and day-to-day interaction with their children
  • engage volunteers in promoting the importance of literacy, empowering local people within their communities and developing community capital

Through one-to-one sessions based in community settings, Literacy Champion volunteers encourage parents and carers to make sharing books and talking with their children part of their daily lives; promoting the importance of the home learning environment and giving practical, fun ideas for parents to support their children’s learning.

Since 2011, more than 700 volunteers have supported over 2,000 families, providing them with focused and dedicated time within their often busy lives to engage with their child.

Volunteers spend one hour a week for six weeks with families who have a child aged two to five, within a community space. Full training for volunteers allows them to work with the family to identify what they already do well and where they would like support. During the sessions volunteers introduce families to fun, easy activities that support children’s early literacy. Volunteers empower families to feel confident about their ability to support their children’s development and help them to develop and share a love of books, stories, songs and conversation.

To date the programme has been delivered in Birmingham, London and Middlesbrough through partnership with local authorities (early years and family learning services, children’s centres, nurseries, pre-schools and library services) as well as community organisations and social housing providers. The Literacy Champions peer support model has informed the Early Words Together programme, funded from 2013-15 by the Department for Educations and delivered in partnership with children’s centres in 13 local authority areas nationally.

Read more about current delivery.

As well as providing targeted, accessible support for families around literacy, the programme has also promoted local partnerships and enabled services to engage with a wider reach of families.

Why does parental involvement make a difference?

Parental involvement is the most important determinant of language development[1]. Parents' support of their child’s interest in reading has more impact on their child’s achievement than social class, employment status or level of education[2]. However, many parents are not aware of the importance they play in their child’s education[3].

Read more about the evidence base supporting Literacy Champions.

Why does peer support make a difference?

The National Literacy Trust Partners in Literacy project found that changes in literacy within the home are often achieved through the influence of friends, neighbours and other community members.

It’s inspiring some of the mums and they’re asking to have it again and people are starting to talk about literacy. I just think it’s got people talking about literacy and talking about how important it is to read and talk about things at such a young age. We tend to think children should start learning to read in school, but it’s important to start at a young age.

Community Centre Manager

Read more about the impact of the programme.


[1] Institute of Education (2003) Sylva, K. et al. The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) Project: Findings from Pre-school to end of Key Stage 1
[2] Sanders, M. G. and Epstein, J. L. (1998). School-family-community partnerships and educational change: International perspectives. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan, and D. Hopkins (eds.) International Handbook of Educational Change. Hingham MA: Kluwer
[3] Harris, A. and Goodall, J. (2007). Engaging parents in raising achievement – do parents know they matter? Research Report DCSF RW004


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.