The economic and social cost of illiteracy is immense – affecting as many as two billion people – it may be as high as one trillion US dollars per year. Illiteracy is a global challenge affecting both developed and emerging countries. For example, in the UK, 22% of the population are deemed functionally illiterate, struggling with basic tasks, such as applying for a job by e-mail or reading their child’s school report. The cost to the UK alone is estimated at £8 billion a year.
Raising literacy levels is one of our three focus areas because:
- Good reading skills are the basic cornerstone essential for people to learn.
- All our businesses depend on the premise that people can read and enjoy doing so.
- Our mix of businesses means that we can make a unique contribution to tackling illiteracy.
We play a part in three main ways:
- Our reading programmes – both print and digital – are found in classrooms the world over.
- For many, the first story that they read or that is read aloud to them will be a Penguin title.
- We partner with others to run projects and campaigns to give books and to inspire reading.
Reading in the classroom
We have a full range of reading programmes designed to help students learn to read. Whether print or online, whole school or for students who need a little extra help, they all share a commitment to improving the reading standards of individual learners. Case study: iLit (inspire Literacy)
Reading in the home
Enthusiastic readers are inspired by great stories. Our Penguin books for children – Puffin, Frederick Warne and Ladybird books – all provide plenty of options.
In this digital age, how we read and write may change radically, but the ability to do so is more important than ever. We believe in offering stories that are engaging and fun, regardless of format, for parents and their children to read at home or on the move. Case study: Ladybird – I’m ready for phonics app
Partnering with others to encourage reading
Tackling illiteracy demands that we work together in an open and collaborative way. We have focused on building partnerships that extend access to books and opportunities for shared reading. Highlights include:
- We gave our eight millionth book under our Booktime programme.
- We Give Books, the digital reading challenge run by the Pearson Foundation, surpassed 1.5 million books donated to literacy charities around the world as chosen by online readers.
- We gave our one millionth book to Book Aid, the charity that supports the development of libraries in schools and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. We were the largest book donor to Book Aid in 2012.