Our impact on society report 2012 Raising literacy levels

In this digital age, how we read and write may change radically, but the ability to do so is more important than ever

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.

Our approach

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.

Our commitments

Our commitments
Our commitment How we measure progress
Using 2010 as our base, to expand our book gifting activities Number of books donated to schools, libraries and literacy charities
Growing take-up of digital-based reading Unlike traditional print programmes, we can track the number of users of our digital reading programmes

Raising literacy levels case studies

Case study: iLit (inspire Literacy)

iLit is the first reading programme built and delivered completely on the iPad. Launched in the United States, it targets readers aged 9 to 16 and supports, rewards and instructs based around the needs of the individual reader. iLit is currently available for readers aged 14 to 16. For more information about iLit and the research evidence that underpins it, visit:

iLit logo

Case study: Ladybird, I’m ready for phonics app

Giving a child a reading head start before they start school helps build confident readers. New apps such as Ladybird’s ‘I’m Ready for Phonics!’ gives parents new ways to help prepare a child for synthetic phonics learning at school.

Ladybird app on iPad

Case study: Booktime

Our Booktime programme run in partnership with charity Booktrust sees every child starting school in England and Wales receive a book pack containing two free books to take home and keep. Now in its seventh year, we exceeded eight million books donated this year. Pearson received the 2012 Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award in the education category alongside Booktrust for the Booktime programme.

Booktime logo