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Formation 1921
Legal status Independent Charity
Purpose BookTrust is the UK's leading literacy charity. Book Trust aims to transform lives by getting children and families reading.
  • London
Chief Executive
Diana Gerald

BookTrust is an independent British literacy charity based in London, England. The charity works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Book Trust was founded in 1921 by Hugh Walpole, Stanley Unwin, and Maurice Marston and Harold Macmillan. Its current Chief Executive is Diana Gerald, who took over from Viv Bird in early 2015.

The charity’s aims are to transform lives through reading. Book Trust’s various book-gifting programmes are offered to children aged 0–16 years. In 2016-17, BookTrust gifted over 2.5 million book packs to children. [1]


In 1921, BookTrust (formerly the Society of Bookmen) was founded by authors Hugh Walpole and John Galsworthy, publishers Stanley Unwin and Maurice Marston and politician Harold Macmillan.

At one of the Society's early meetings in 1924, it was proposed that a National Book Council should be formed; the first meeting of the newly formed National Book Council took place in Eastbourne on 11 September 1924.

Several years later saw the first Children's Book Week take place. An event that historically took place in October, the event helped schools, libraries, children and their parents celebrate books and reading for pleasure. Since 2013 Children’s Book Week has taken place in early July.

In 1969, BookTrust’s then Chief Executive, Martyn Goff secured funding from the Arts Council. This allowed the charity to move in new directions. Ultimately this paved the way for Book Trust to manage several established literary prizes, including the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly The Orange Prize for Fiction), Blue Peter Book Award and The Sunday Times Short Story Award.

In a bid to demonstrate and champion the benefits of reading from a young age, Bookstart was created in 1992 by the charity in partnership with libraries and health visitors.


Bookstart is BookTrust’s early years programme. Bookstart gifts books to children between the ages of 0-1 and 3-4. The pilot for the programme was initiated in Birmingham in 1992 and involved 300 babies. BookTrust commissioned Professor Barry Wade and Dr Maggie Moore to both promote and research the Bookstart project. The project built on previous research which identified the significance of reading with very young children.[2]

The research found that Bookstart children began school with significant advantages and with higher attainment in all aspects of the nine pre-school baseline assessments. By 1999, many local authorities were eager to participate in the Bookstart programme and by March 2000 92% of local authorities had joined the programme. The success of the Bookstart programmes was helped by library staff willing to become "Bookstart Coordinators".

Bookstart offers book packs for children with additional needs,[3] these include:

  • Bookshine for children who are deaf
  • Booktouch for children who are blind
  • Bookstart Star for children with disabilities that impact fine motor skills
  • Dual-language Bookstart packs

National Bookstart Week[edit]

National Bookstart Week is a themed celebration that takes place in early June. Bookstart gifts a free copy of a selected children’s book each year. In recent years, Bookstart have also gifted books to people in vulnerable settings, these include neonatal units and food banks.[4]

The week aims to get families to read with their children by encouraging libraries and early year’s settings to host themed Storytime and Rhymetime events, although many libraries host these events all year round. Some of the more traditional Storytime events have been adapted by libraries – Bournemouth host a ‘wriggle on the beach’ event each year.

Bookgifting programmes[edit]

  • The Ant Club: Ant Club is a targeted scheme for children in Year 1. The pack is provided to schools that may need additional support; the packs consist of printed and online resources and recommended reading lists. This programme is supported by the Department of Education.
  • Time to Read: Time to Read packs are gifted for free to a child in their first year of school when they are 4 or 5-years-old.
  • Pori Drwy Stori: Pori Drwy Stori is funded by the Welsh Government and aims to support children's literacy in reception-aged classes. Pori Drwy Stori is a dual-language programme.
  • Bookbuzz: Bookbuzz offers every student in Year 7–9 the chance to choose their own book from a list of 17 titles suitable for 11–13-year-olds. The books are selected by a panel of experts.
  • The School Library Pack: School Library Pack is a free offering of books and resources to schools in England with Year 7 students. The programme is funded by the Department for Education and supported by children's book publishers.
  • Letterbox Club: Letterbox Club is run in partnership with the University of Leicester. The Letterbox Club pack consists of books, activities and stationery that is provided to children 5 to 13 years old. The pack is paid for by local authorities.
  • Beyond Booked Up: Beyond Booked Up is a targeted scheme for children in Year 7 and 8. The pack is provided to secondary schools that may need additional support.


Children's prizes[edit]

  • Blue Peter Book Awards: The Blue Peter Book Awards is run in collaboration with CBeebies's Blue Peter. The award has recognised authors and illustrators since 2000.
  • Children’s Laureate: The role of Children’s Laureate is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books.[5] The Laureate must have a substantial body of work; previous Children's Laureates include Michael Morpurgo, Julia Donaldson and Malorie Blackman. Writer and illustrator Chris Riddell was appointed as 2015-17's Children's Laureate in June 2015. In June 2017, Lauren Child took over as Children's Laureate. [6]


In December 2010 it was announced that the government would cut its entire £13 million annual grant to BookTrust's English bookgifting schemes. The schemes provided more than two million packs of books to English children annually. After a public campaign by authors including Philip Pullman and Andrew Motion, the government announced it would negotiate with BookTrust on renewal of the funding.

BookTrust is responsible for a number of successful national reading promotions, sponsored book prizes and creative reading projects aimed at encouraging readers to discover and enjoy books. This includes Bookstart, the national programme that works through locally based organisations to give a free pack of books to young children, with guidance materials for parents and carers. On Friday 17 December 2010, Book Trust received notification that funding from the Department of Education for its bookgifting programmes (Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up) in England was to be cut by 100% from 1 April 2011.


  1. ^ BookTrust, "About BookTrust". Retrieved 9 June.
  2. ^ Bookstart, "History". Retrieved 12 June.
  3. ^ Bookstart, "Additional Needs". Retrieved 12 June.
  4. ^ Booktrust, "Book Trust gifts books to families in neonatal units". Retrieved 12 June.
  5. ^ "About the Children's Laureate".
  6. ^ BookTrust, "Lauren Child becomes the tenth Waterstones Children’s Laureate". Retrieved 9 June.

External links[edit]