Claire von Schilling
Penguin Random House, Executive Vice President Corporate Communications
Phone: + 1 212 782 98 76
Country: Great Britain
According to experts, some regions in the United Kingdom are faced with a serious lack in literacy skills: almost 35 percent of the adult population in the most deprived areas lack the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old child. For the second consecutive year, companies in the UK have committed to tackling the literacy gap with various campaigns in local communities and at a national level by signing the "Vision for Literacy Business Pledge" initiated by the National Literacy Forum. 44 top caliber representatives of leading businesses signed an open letter in the widely circulated daily newspaper "The Telegraph" at the end of last week, including Tom Weldon, CEO Penguin Random House UK, and Vicci Tatton, Human Resource Director Prinovis.
The situation described above increasingly worries employers in the country. By the year 2025 the literacy challenge could cost the economy £32 billion if not addressed, they state in the letter. More than a third of employers are dissatisfied with young people’s literacy skills and about forty percent have provided remedial literacy training to school and college dropouts. The signees are convinced that businesses can reduce the literacy gap by helping children gain the skills they need to get a job. "Britain cannot afford to let poor literacy continue to undermine our economic competitiveness," the letter concludes.
Penguin Random House UK already supports the literacy skills of children and adults with various campaigns. On 23 April of each year, for example, reading events are organized for World Book Day and 20,000 especially compiled books are donated to prisons, libraries, community centers and refugee centers each year as part of "World Book Night". Over 63 employees from Penguin Random House UK volunteer each week to read with children at nine schools local to all of the British publisher’s sites. In addition, the publishing group provides access to a free online library for the "Read For My School" campaign – this summer alone, over 75,000 books were read by 7-13 year-olds across England.
Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust and responsible for the initiative of the National Literacy Forum, said: "Business has a crucial role to play in helping to raise literacy levels across the UK, increasing our economic competiveness and creating a fairer society. We are delighted that Penguin Random House is taking important action to help ensure that every young person is equipped with the literacy skills they need for employment and to have a successful life."