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The Impact of the Pandemic on Literacy Levels

A photograph of a stack of books, out of focus


Today we  are looking at the impact of the pandemic on literacy levels in primary school.

The Future of Primary School Libraries report, released in November 2021, revealed some alarming statistics.

1 in 8 schools do not have a library, a number that jumps to 1 in 4 in schools with a higher proportion of pupils on free school meals. We touch on this in our Improving Primary School Literacy post. 40% of primary schools reported having no dedicated school library budget.

The Pandemic…

This situation has been worsened by the pandemic. School closures have caused some pupils to experience up to two to three months learning loss for their reading progress. Furthermore, having to operate in a ‘Covid-safe’ way has created greater financial pressure on schools. Money that could have gone to school libraries had to be redirected to purchasing PPE, digital equipment, and cleaning supplies. As a result, many schools are dependent on donations for the books on their shelves. Often, teachers have bought books out of their own pockets to stock the school library.

Why Diverse Books Matter…

While having something to read is better than no books at all, the issue with this is that donated books are not necessarily going to be very diverse. Second-hand books from a charity shop are unlikely to show the true range of newly published, increasingly diverse books that are out there. They are not going to reflect the make-up of the school. This issue has not arisen from a lack of trying: teachers understand the importance of diverse books, funding is the roadblock.

Children should have the space to see themselves in stories. They should have the opportunity to have their imaginations sparked and their minds stimulated. A school library should have books that celebrate the identities of their students, rather than books that do not even feature characters who are like them. Additionally, children should have access to books that teach them to respect and sympathise with their fellow classmates. Diverse books are aware of and champion race, different family set-ups, LGBTQI+ people, and disability.

What can I do?

In the ideal world, The Future of Primary School Libraries report would not come as the bearer of such bad news. Schools across the country would have plump library budgets and their shelves would be stocked with a rich array of books. For now, Little Box of Books has a solution. We understand that teachers do not have the time to curate diverse libraries – so we’ve done it for them. We offer a big box of books for your classroom. Our bundles come in themes: books illustrated and authored by black people; LGBTQI+; and Love Your Planet. We also offer book bundles for different key stages.

Business Memberships

For businesses and individuals who want to transform school libraries, we have our business memberships. These give businesses who have thrived during the pandemic the opportunity to twin with their local primary school and donate books and resources. This membership is TRANFORMATIVE…

The need for a well-furnished, brilliantly diverse school library is emphasised by the fact that 1 in 11 children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not own a book at home. Crucially,  these children deserve to see themselves in fiction just as much as any other child. If this matters to you, we suggest you donate a subscription for a child aged 0-11. Through our charity and school partners, we will work towards reducing that number.


A photograph of a stack of books

Child-Friendly Ways to Explain the Pandemic

On a final note, if your child is a little startled by the pandemic, we have some child-friendly explanations into how the world has changed. Smiley Eyes, Happy Faces is Dawn McNiff (author) and Zoe Warring (illustrator)’s answer to giving a fun spin on all the adults wearing facemasks. The lift the flap board book lets children see the smiley eyes of facemask wearers; then, they lift up the flap to reveal the happy face. The man on the street is smiling, as is the doctor. It is the reassurance they need to know that the adults are friendly underneath their facemasks.

In Lockdown Hair, written by Linda Steinbeck and illustrated by Alexenda Rusu, Siona comes up with clever and imaginative hacks to cutting hair whilst maintaining a 2m distance. It is a quirky story with safety at its heart.