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Literacy news

Iconic books hit the streets of London…Books about Town is here for the summer

2 Jul 2014

DSC 0485From today, benches shaped like open books will pop up all over the capital for Londoners, families and visitors to find and enjoy. ‘Books about Town’, launched by the National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art, brings 50 unique BookBench sculptures to the city, created by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage and reading for enjoyment.


The BookBenches feature stories linked to London and are based on a range of iconic books from treasured children’s stories such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Peter Pan to classic adult titles including 1984 and The Day of the Triffids.

Axel Scheffler has illustrated a bench which celebrates his work with Julia Donaldson and the characters they have created together, including The Gruffalo and characters from their new book The Scarecrows’ Wedding. Among the other top artists involved is Ralph Steadman who illustrated Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic Through the Looking Glass in 1973 and has reproduced some of these illustrations on a unique BookBench. Children’s authors Lauren Child and Cressida Cowell have each designed benches based on their own series Clarice Bean and How to Train Your Dragon. Original illustration by Rae Smith, the Tony and Olivier award-winning stage designer of the National Theatre’s production of War Horse also features on a bespoke War Horse BookBench.

Well-loved literary heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Mary Poppins and Hercule Poirot also appear on benches which visitors can discover by following literary trails in Greenwich, City of London, Riverside and Bloomsbury until mid-September. On 7 October, the BookBenches will be auctioned at the Southbank Centre to raise valuable funds for the National Literacy Trust to tackle illiteracy in deprived communities across the UK.

To mark the launch of Books about Town, the National Literacy Trust unveils new research today revealing that children’s enjoyment of reading has increased for the first time in eight years. The charity surveyed around 30,000 8 to16-year-olds and key findings in their report Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2013 include:

  • 53.3% of young people enjoy reading either “very much” or “quite a lot”. This surpasses the highest level of reading enjoyment the charity recorded eight years ago in 2005 which was 51.4%
  • More young people read outside class daily in 2013 than in 2012 (32.2% vs 28.4%)
  • More young people agree that reading is cool in 2013 than in the previous four years. In 2010 only 31.9% agreed with the statement “reading is cool”, compared with  39% in 2013
  • Fewer children in 2013 say they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them read than in 2012 (19.4% vs 21.5%)
  • However, 4 children in 10 said they didn’t have a favourite book, and almost a third of children (31.6%) say they struggle to find things to read which interest them.

The National Literacy Trust’s new research highlights how important reading for enjoyment is for improving literacy in the UK. Young people who enjoy reading very much are nearly four times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all.

Children’s author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell, says:

I am so excited to have designed a How to Train Your Dragon BookBench and to be part of the National Literacy Trust’s Books about Town campaign to celebrate the wealth of writing and illustrating talent in this country. I am hoping that 'Books about Town' will remind Londoners on the streets of the joy of reading books.


Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust says:

We are very excited to be bringing a collection of BookBenches to London this summer to spread the love of reading across the capital.  From Conan Doyle’s Sherlock to Cressida’s dragons, there will be plenty in store for visitors to celebrate reading for enjoyment and the UK’s rich literary culture.

Families can have fun discovering the BookBenches, talking about the books depicted and continue the adventure at home with our downloadable activities. Fostering a love of reading at home is crucial to children's future happiness and success. Visit to find out more.


Sally-Ann Wilkinson, Director of Wild in Art says:

Our events are designed to bring the enjoyment of public art to thousands of people while offering new ways to explore a host city or town.  We are delighted to be working with the National Literacy Trust on this project bringing many of our favourite books to life through the visual arts.


For the latest news and to download the Books about Town trail maps of the BookBenches, visit or follow us on Twitter @booksabouttown.

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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.