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

Book Trust 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-old. Since 1992 Book Trust have gifted 57.5 million books to children.[1]


In 1921 Book Trust (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 Book Trust’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 Book Trust’s early year’s 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. Book Trust 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, this year’s book, Rumble in the Jungle, was gifted to over 450,000 children across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.[4] In recent years Bookstart have also gifted books to people in vulnerable settings, these include neonatal units and foodbanks.[5]

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]

  • Booktime - Booktime packs are gifted for free to a child in their first year of school when they are 4 or 5-years-old. In 2014, 696,000 book packs were gifted to schools.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Read for My School - Read for My School is offered in partnership with Pearson. The programme challenges Year 3-8 Pupils to read as many books as possible within a two month period of the spring term.
  • 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 aged 5-13-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]

  • Roald Dahl Funny Prize - The Roald Dahl Funny Prize is awarded to authors and illustrators who write and illustrate books using humour. The prize is supported by libraries, teachers and parents.
  • 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. 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 2015-2017's Children's Laureate in June 2015.

Adult prizes[edit]

  • The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction - Previously the Orange Prize for Fiction from 1996 to 2002, The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is exclusively open to female writers who have had a novel published in the UK.
  • Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award - The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award offers the most prize money for a single short story in the English language - £30,000. The Prize is supported by The Sunday Times and EFG Private Bank.
  • BBC National Short Story Award in partnership with Book Trust - The BBC National Short Story Award is broadcast live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row and all the shortlisted stories are broadcast, along with interviews with the shortlisted writers, in the run-up to the event.
  • BBC Young Writers’ Award with Book Trust - The BBC Young Writers’ Award launched in 2014 as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the BBC National Short Story Award. The Award is aimed at 14-18 year-olds and the first Award will take place in September.
  • David Cohen Prize for Literature- The David Cohen Prize for Literature is one of the UK’s most distinguished literary prizes that recognises writers, dramatists, novelists, poets and essayists. Former winners include V S Naipaul, Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing and Tony Harrison.
  • Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize honours the best work of fiction by a living author, which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize gives the winning author and translator the same prize money: £5,000.
  • Kim Scott Walwyn Prize - The Kim Scott Walwyn Prize, which honours the life and career of Kim Scott Walwyn and recognises the achievements of women in publishing, was founded in 2003 and has been awarded to outstanding women in the sector.


In December 2010 it was announced that the government would cut its entire £13m annual grant to Book Trust's English bookgifting schemes. The schemes provided over 2m 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 Book Trust on renewal of the funding.

Book Trust 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. These include the Orange Prize for Fiction,the Children’s Laureate, the Get London Reading campaign, the Booktrust Teenage Prize and 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. Booktrust has developed two further free book programmes in the UK: Booktime, run in association with Pearson PLC, gives a free book to every Year One pupil, and Booked Up, which gives a free book, from a choice of twelve, to every Year Seven pupil. 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, "Our Impact". Retrieved 3 June.
  2. ^ Bookstart, "History". Retrieved 12 June.
  3. ^ Bookstart, "Additional Needs". Retrieved 12 June.
  4. ^ Booktrust, "Dads aren't reading enough to their children". Retrieved 12 June.
  5. ^ Booktrust, "Book Trust gifts books to families in neonatal units". Retrieved 12 June.

External links[edit]