How personalised stories can make a difference

Personalised book creator Librio explains how the company will be fulfilling the Business Pledge in 2018

Publishing company Librio creates highly-illustrated personalised children’s books, and is one of the new signatories for the 2018 Vision for Literacy Business Pledge. Leading businesses have committed to helping raise literacy levels in the UK by taking clear action in three areas: within their workforce, in their local communities and at a national level.

Here, Ed Russell, CEO of Librio, explains how the company will be fulfilling the Pledge in 2018…

The National Literacy Trust’s Vision for Literacy Business Pledge was launched at an event in Canary Wharf on 14 November 2017.

By sheer coincidence and missing of deadlines, Librio launched our website from London City Airport a mere three hours earlier.

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At the launch, Dame Julia Cleverdon, Chair of Trustees at the National Literacy Trust, challenged those present, “Come on, then, who wants to share what their company’s done to support the Pledge this year?” Our CEO, Ed Russell, shrank in his chair, hoping he wouldn’t be elected to speak.

Treppenwitz is a German word literally meaning “stair joke”. It’s a concise way of expressing the feeling of realising too late what you should have said at the time — once you’re heading down the stairs. Too late, Ed realised what a perfect opportunity it was to pitch those present on a truly innovative way of fulfilling their Pledge in 2018.

And so, on the virtual stairs of the National Literacy Trust’s blog, here is what he should have said:

In contrast to centuries-old institutions like WHSmith and Sainsbury’s, we cannot recount what we’ve done in the past to support literacy initiatives, but we can lay out our plan for 2018 and provide a blueprint for how younger companies with smaller reach can make a difference.

Librio is a personalised children’s book publisher.

With an eye on social responsibility from the start, we explored how we can make an impact beyond “just” donating money to a worthy cause.

In searching for that cause, we uncovered research which suggested personalisation could increase children’s engagement with books and we realised we were inadvertently building a product which itself could be used as a tool to increase literacy levels in the UK and beyond.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? If a book’s main character shares your name and your appearance, both you and — importantly — your parents will be excited to read it, especially when best-selling books traditionally feature such a narrow band of diversity.

Obvious as it is, there are only a handful of small studies looking at personalised books’ potential in this field. We aim to change that as follows:

Step 1: Carry out a review of existing research in this field to assess personalised books’ potential effectiveness in combating literacy issues.

Step 2: Carry out large-scale research in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust to establish the most effective way of using personalised books to encourage reading.

Step 3: Work with artists and researchers to develop research-based personalised books which we can distribute at scale.

Step 1 was completed in November when we released a report in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust. The report confirmed what we suspected — it found that reading a personalised book with a parent:

- Motivates children to read more, which in turn improves their reading skills and increases their engagement in learning

- Encourages children to speak more, and for longer, boosting their vocabulary, improving listening and comprehension skills, and expanding their knowledge of the world

- Enables children to see themselves as readers from an early age which, if maintained, can put them three years ahead of their peers in reading age by the age of 14.

So this shows that there is great potential: proceed to Step 2.

And so, all you company representatives sitting in front of me, this is where you come in.

We have built the technology and infrastructure to create wonderful personalised books. What we currently lack is the funding required to carry out further research in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust

If we partnered with one of the companies present, we could accelerate that process and start working on a cutting edge approach to combating the issue we’re gathered here to address.

So, if you’re looking for an innovative, exciting way to engage young readers this year, do come and say hello afterwards. I’ll be the one standing next to the free beer saying “Treppenwitz” repeatedly to myself.”

You can find Ed on Twitter at @librio_en, or via email on

Find out more about the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge.

National Literacy Trust

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