Local communities informing local campaigns

Our National Literacy Trust Hubs prove the power of local community initiatives. Since the launch of our first Hub in Middlesbrough in 2013, and subsequent Hubs in Bradford, Peterborough and Stoke-on-Trent, our work has had a significant impact on literacy skills and attitudes in towns and cities across the country.

While low literacy is a national problem, tackling it requires local solutions. Every community has different needs and faces different challenges. We believe that targeted, localised approaches are the best way to create long-lasting change.

Hubs bring together local partners to tackle literacy issues in communities across the UK where low levels of literacy are seriously impacting on people’s lives. We convene and work with local businesses, health, education and cultural organisations to help raise literacy levels in our Hub areas.

A vital part of each of our Hubs is a public-facing campaign — for example, our Stoke-on-Trent Hub is branded Stoke Reads. Through these campaigns we create excitement, raise awareness of our work and spread our key literacy messages to a wide audience. This helps to change behaviours among local communities by inspiring parents, children, local businesses and other organisations to make literacy a priority.

Each campaign is shaped by local assets and the priorities of residents. When planning campaign activity, we get to know communities — the places they visit, what they do in their free time, what matters to them — so we know how best to reach local people and inspire them to embed positive literacy behaviours into their everyday lives.

Finding the right local partners

Local partners are crucial to the success of our local campaigns. They have an important role to play in helping us to share information such as flyers and posters with literacy messaging, deliver events and activities, and in speaking directly to the communities of which they are part. We aim to establish partnerships with key organisations in our Hubs — sports teams, travel and leisure companies, cultural organisations, local businesses and public health — as we know they are respected and valued by the people we want to reach.

An example of this is our partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club. The club has played a key role in the Middlesbrough Reading Campaign since 2013, helping us to inspire thousands of young football supporters to enjoy reading.

Books and reading tips have been handed out to families at the Riverside Stadium, literacy messaging has been included in match day programmes and football players have visited schools to talk about the power of books. Middlesbrough FC is important to the lives of local people and therefore an important local partner.

Communicating through the right local channels

Using the right channels of communication is also key to reaching local people in our Hubs and raising awareness. We form media partnerships with local papers and radio stations in each area to secure consistent coverage of our activities and events. We also work with the journalists and radio presenters who are listened to and valued by the families we want to reach, encouraging them to embed literacy messages in their content.

We recognise the impact of social media and use it to inspire peer-led behaviours. An initiative in Bradford encouraged fathers to post a picture of them sharing a story with their child on their social media platforms, with the chance to win prizes. These pictures were seen by thousands of friends and followers, motivating others to get involved.

Engaging collateral is also a powerful way of reaching families on the ground. We create postcards and flyers with key literacy messages and work with partners to distribute them to our target communities. This could include at the cinema, in the supermarket or in waiting rooms at doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries.

As we look forward to launching additional local campaigns in the coming months, we’ll be getting to the heart of new communities to determine needs and priorities. Importantly, we’ll be talking to the local people who know their communities best and whose support is crucial to the success of a local initiative.