By being a National Literacy Trust Hub, Middlesbrough Reads is able to bring funded programmes to Middlesbrough schools to help give children the literacy skills they need to succeed in life. Read about some of the ongoing work below.

Some lovely feedback: “Thank you so much for inviting us to participate in Puffin World of Stories! The Professional Development training has been great, and the 300 new books have really helped to transform our school library!”

A Royal World Book Day experience

To celebrate World Book Day, the National Literacy Trust and Oak National Academy came together to create a virtual celebration of books and reading, featuring a special guest – Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall.

Middlesbrough Reads was asked to choose a school which had a large number of children of NHS workers to take part in this fantastic opportunity.

Acklam Whin was chosen, and four pupils had the chance to ask questions about books and reading to some of this year’s World Book Day authors – Zanib Mian, Katherine Rundell, and Tom Fletcher, as well as The Duchess herself. They were absolutely brilliant, and fantastic ambassadors for Middlesbrough.

The video is available on the Oak National Academy website, and has had 220,000 views so far.


World Book Day reading bonanza

As part of this year’s event, Middlesbrough Reads took delivery of an amazing 13,500 books from the publishers and World Book Day, which were given out ahead of World Book Day.

The donation meant that every Early Years and Key Stage 1 pupil across the town received a copy of Tom Fletcher’s ‘There’s a Wolf in Your Book’ or ‘Gigantosaurus’ by Jonny Duddle.

In addition, 14 primary schools took delivery of enough books for their entire school.

“We were delighted to receive a World Book Day book for every child in school, as not all of our children would have the opportunity to take advantage of their £1 book token. This amazing gift, thanks to Middlesbrough Reads, has ensured we can continue to promote reading at home – something we have strived to achieve during lockdown.”


Video superstar

Screenshot from the Video Superstar YouTube videoMiddlesbrough Reads was contacted by World Book Day to recommend a family to star in a video about the importance of sharing books together and reading.

Immediately Jellisha, from Corpus Christi School, sprang to mind following her amazing video book review at October half-term.

Jellisha, her dad Prabhu, and her younger brother Kisshaun were selected as one of 5 families from around the country to take part, and featured in the national World Book Day promotional material.


Tees Valley Music Service WBD

For World Book Day 2021, Middlesbrough Reads joined forces with the Tees Valley Music Service, promoting their World Book Day offer, mixing music, reading, and books.

Middlesbrough Reads donated book bundles for schools chosen for being especially creative and passionate.


Mega-author extravaganza

5 March 2020 saw the last big event before the country went into coronavirus lockdown, where over 1,200 pupils from 26 local primary schools attended an author extravaganza at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

The event featured 7 of the UK’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators as part of World Book Day’s Share a Story Live tour.

Despite coronavirus, on 25 March 2021, 65 schools from Middlesbrough, Stockton, and Redcar & Cleveland (with a couple from Wiltshire and London), signed up for a joint venture with ‘Drake-The Bookshop’ and Connecting Stories. Over 3,500 Middlesbrough pupils took part in the day.

Ten fantastic authors ‘visited’ the schools and there was something for everyone – from EYFS to Year 6, writers, illustrators, storytellers, local authors, and debut authors.

“What an amazing event! 10 authors in a day covering every age group with something for everyone!  A real community event, and what an impact on the 700 children in our school, and on so many others at schools across the town. A brilliant way to celebrate everything about reading, to engage our children and remind them that reading is fun! An exciting day meeting some of the authors we love and some new ones we definitely want to find out more about! A huge thank you to everyone involved.” – Jon Hall – Assistant Head Teacher – Green Lane Primary Academy

The Early Words Together project continued to be delivered in several Middlesbrough schools throughout 2019, with a positive impact on pupils being reported.

The Middlesbrough Hub was a pilot area for the Early Words Together programme, which uses volunteers to help parents to support their child’s literacy, at local children’s centres.

During the pilot, the programme helped the number of children reaching the expected communication and language level to increase by 20.1 percentage points. The average for children in non-Early Words Together schools increased by only 14.8 percentage points compared to the national average increase of only 8.1 percentage points.

13 primary schools took part in the Early Words Together programme between 2016 and 2017. There was a 7.2 percentage point increase in the number of children in Early Words Together schools who achieved an overall good level of development, while the increase for non-Early Words Together schools was only 3.8 percentage points. The national average increased by 4.4 percentage points.  The gap between Early Words Together schools and the national average decreased from 10.9 percentage points to 8.1 percentage points.

The ‘Our Stories’ programme was developed through the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford, and is a creative writing and performance poetry initiative which encourages an interest in poems and how they work, a willingness to play with language, and a desire to communicate ideas.

The Hub worked with Middlesbrough-based performance poets, Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby, to repurpose the resource for Middlesbrough, through funding from Learning Middlesbrough. It aimed to explore whether engagement with performance poetry had a positive impact on pupil confidence around reading and writing.

Three schools (Corpus Christi, Abingdon, and North Ormesby) took part in the pilot project in 2018, involving teacher CPD, and two day-long workshops for pupils in each school.

“It was heartening to see the rise in confidence and self-esteem among many of the participating pupils throughout the sessions, which some children with SEN learning their poems and competing alongside gifted and talented pupils. Likewise, the use of heteroglossia (a mix of languages) was notable and showed an inventive approach to poetic expression among those children with English as a second language.” – Bob Beagrie & Andy Willoughby (Ek Zuban Literature Development)

“There was a lot of self-esteem raised and the pupils realised that within themselves.” – teacher

The schools that participated in 2019 were Archibald Primary School, Beech Grove Primary School, Hemlington Hall Academy, North Ormesby Primary Academy, Viewley Hill Academy, and Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Primary School – the inaugural winners of the competition.

All the participating schools learned how to craft different poetry styles such as kennings and riddles, and took part in workshops led by Bob and Andy, focusing on local places and important landmarks. The programme ended in the grand final, held at Middlesbrough Town Hall and attended by more than 130 pupils. A total of 60 pupils competed in 12 teams from the six schools. The winning team in 2019 were the “Battling Boro Bards” from Archibald Primary School.

From looking at data, reported perceptions towards pupils’ reading ability increased by 12%, perceived enjoyment of reading and writing increased by 13% and 16%, perceived improvement in writing increased by 8%, and perceived enjoyment of reading/writing poetry increased by 6%.

The Young Readers Programme motivates children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to read for enjoyment.

Children take part in a series of fun, literacy-focused events which help them gain the skills and knowledge they need to develop their own identities as readers. They are able to choose free books of their own to keep at three events throughout the year, helping to maintain their positive experiences of books and reading.

As Middlesbrough is a National Literacy Trust Hub, ten schools have been able to participate in the Programme since 2014, as a result of national funding being secured through British Land, Laing, and WHSmiths.

In July 2019, 240 pupils attended a celebration event at Middlesbrough Football Club, and attended book readings by authors including Cathy Cassidy and Gabrielle Kent. Children’s survey responses showed that those who started the project with the lowest levels of reading enjoyment showed particularly positive reading outcomes. Teachers reported that participation in the programme had a positive impact on reading attainment and on reading enjoyment.

“Before taking part in the Young Readers Programme there was an apathy towards reading and books in my class. Now there’s a real buzz!” – Year 5 teacher.

The Puffin World of Stories programme is a partnership with Puffin (part of Penguin Random House) and the National Literacy Trust. It gives primary schools the books, materials, training, and resources they need to champion reading for pleasure throughout the whole school, and breathe new life into their libraries and reading spaces as places of creativity and imagination.

By being a National Literacy Trust Hub meant Middlesbrough schools were given the fabulous opportunity to take part. A further 13 Middlesbrough primary schools have been recruited to take part in Puffin World of Stories in 2020/2021, meaning 91% of eligible schools (71% of all schools – 29 out of 41) will have benefitted from the programme, and the impact has been recognised by Ofsted.

“The Ofsted inspector commented on the ‘buzz about reading’ and noted that the pupils spoke enthusiastically about the books, the library and reading in general.”

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the National Literacy Trust’s partner, KPMG, gifted 150 ‘instant libraries’ to schools across the country, 10 of which came to Middlesbrough. Each donation consisted of 30 new books, helping children discover a love of reading.

The initiative is part of KPMG’s Reading the Future campaign, celebrating the firm’s 150th anniversary, and marks its long-standing commitment to transforming disadvantaged communities through literacy, education and skills.

Abingdon, Newport, North Ormesby, St Josephs, Breckon Hill, Newham Bridge, Ayresome, Caldicotes, Green Lane, and Beech Grove were the selected schools, and have all been really positive about the donation.

In 2019, the north east was offered £14,500, through Provident Financial, to run a Primary Words for Work (Dream Big), a KS3, and a post-16 Words for Work. Middlesbrough was chosen to benefit from this funding.

Words for Work: Dream Big develops literacy skills, raises aspirations, and challenges stereotypes with children in Key Stage 1. Through a variety of interactive play and skill-building activities, the programme provides an authentic way to practise language and literacy.

Words for Work: Dream Big helps young children imagine their futures and how they will use the skills they learning at school when they’re older. At the start of the programme, children enjoy a trip to a nearby workplace to help them visualise their futures and explore the world of grown-ups. Children go under cover and become detectives for the day, tasked with hunting for specified objects in the workplace and discussing ways they help adults do their job.

Year 2 from Newport Primary visited Scrann Pizza Restaurant in Norton. With help from head chef, the restaurant manager, and the accountant, the school children were taught about lots of different jobs in hospitality. By the end of the day, they understood that many different roles are needed to run a restaurant, and they really enjoyed discovering a workplace beyond a typical office environment.

Back at school, the Year 2 children had a Dream Big day, exploring different jobs through role play and literacy activities. As part of the programme, we provide the schools with props and dressing up kits to create six makeshift workplaces in the classroom.

At the end of the programme, Newport School invited parents to attend a celebration assembly where children were awarded with certificates. The children were given the opportunity to read aloud what they had learnt about the importance of literacy in all jobs.

Dream Big helps children visualise their futures, and in one survey, 97% of teachers said that learning about work first hand helps their pupils broaden aspirations. When asked about how the programme will guide their approach in the future, a teacher from Newport Primary School said: “I raise more awareness of jobs around our local area on a more regular basis and look more opportunities to discuss jobs within the classroom.”

In recent years, four secondary schools have taken part in the Key Stage 3 Words for Work programme. In Spring 2019, 28 more-vulnerable Y8 students from UCA took part in Words for Work, working with local businesses and employers. They gained confidence and were much more informed about future prospects. There was a visible positive shift in their behaviours and attitudes.

Following the identification of “Middlesbrough’s 100 Best Reads”, reading logs were designed for the four age ranges, distributed to every primary school in the town, and made available online for pupils taught at home.

Children were asked to submit book reviews on the books they’d read. Over 500 reviews were sent in, with Ameera, from Newham Bridge, winning the top prize of an iPad Mini, which was kindly donated by Stagecoach North East.

The feedback from schools was incredibly positive: “Thank you for the Reading Logs – they’re fantastic! They’ve given staff some more ideas for whole class reading books as well!”

Reading Log displays in school libraries have added to the Reading for Pleasure agenda, and are available to download from the National Literacy Trust website.

The National Literacy Trust teamed up with Bupa Foundation to give copies of The Book of Hopes (Bloomsbury Publishing) to 5000 primary schools across the country, providing an essential boost of hope to thousands of children during the second national coronavirus lockdown.

The Book of Hopes is Bloomsbury’s collection of inspiring short stories, artwork, and poems from more than 130 much-loved children’s authors, illustrators, and poets. It was launched and curated by author Katherine Rundell in response to the first national coronavirus lockdown in April 2020.

Every Middlesbrough primary school received 3 copies, along with access to The Book of Hopes online resources.

Following on from the donation of copies of The Book of Hopes, schools across Middlesbrough were encouraged to enter the national competition ‘The Scrapbook of Hopes’.

They were invited to showcase, through words and pictures, the fantastic work they were doing to spread hope, inspiration, and a love of reading within school and their local community since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

St Joseph’s, Beech Grove, and North Ormesby were announced as 3 of the 15 winners.

Connecting Stories is an Arts Council England-funded project to address the literacy attainment gap, and increase children and young people’s access to literary experiences and books in the communities most in need of support.

The Middlesbrough campaign is supported by Walker Books, who will be donating books all over the town. Authors Matt Oldfield and Jamie Russell are also supporting the campaign by championing reading and creative writing in the local area.

Key Stage 2 pupils have taken part in a creative writing competition, with the theme ‘Middlesbrough and Me’. Winning entries will be published in an anthology and form part of an exhibition.

27 Middlesbrough schools have signed up to take part, with thousands of pupils attending virtual author visits, including Matt Lucas and Cressida Cowell.