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Literacy and Social Inclusion


Having poor literacy skills, coupled with low parental expectations and poor self-esteem, can have a profound effect on educational life chances, employability and social cohesion. Children suffer from the social exclusion of their parents: the difference in achievement can be seen in children as young as 22 months, and the gap gets wider the older they get. However, we also know that involvement in learning has an influence on the level of individual resilience to setbacks and stress, on feelings of wellbeing and the extent to which people feel in control of their lives.

Poor literacy is the tip of the iceberg. We need to understand the less-visible factors underneath and how the patterns of influence on individual lives can be harnessed to raise literacy achievement for all.

The Literacy and Social Inclusion Project 2002-2006

WIth funding from the Basic Skills Agency, we developed a national resource around literacy and social inclusion based on the research evidence and good and promising practice. The aim was to provide a knowledge base that shows how, and why, a literacy approach can make a difference to the life chances and skills of those most at risk of social exclusion.

We examined the research evidence on raising the achievement of children, young people and adults whose literacy skills, or attitudes, inhibit inclusion. We mapped activity using practitioner and other networks, and sought feedback from those involved on the ground and in policy development. 

A position paper, 'Every which way we can', produced two years into the three-year project, reviewed the evidence gathered and outlined some of the challenges. It also proposed a vision of the "perfect literacy system" that would best support those of all ages most at risk from their poor or underdeveloped literacy or language skills, and provided a model for building parental skills. 

At the end of the project, we published Literacy and Social Inclusion: The Handbook, for people involved in planning and developing local services, including education. It shows how different organisations, including local authorities, can work together to develop community literacy strategies to support schools and contribute to shared priorities for literacy.

The handbook demonstrates the relevance of community literacy strategies to early years provision, primary and secondary schools, the post-16 sector, the cultural sector and sport, the Every Child Matters agenda and the criminal justice system. It describes a collaborative literacy process that involves partners and service users, and provides a checklist for identifying shared goals and agreeing a delivery plan.


The Handbook (pdf)


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.