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BookTrust is the UK's largest children's reading charity, based in London, England. The charity works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Legal statusIndependent charity
PurposeBookTrust is the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, dedicated to getting children reading.
  • London
Chief Executive
Diana Gerald

BookTrust 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 aims to get children reading. Each year, BookTrust reaches 3.9 million children across the UK with books, resources and support to help develop a love of reading, from ages 0 to 16 but with a focus on early years. [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.

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 BookTrust to manage several established literary prizes, including the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly The Orange Prize for Fiction) and The Sunday Times Short Story Award. The charity now focuses on books for children and one of its current prizes is the Blue Peter Book Awards. [2]

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. Every child in England and Wales gets a free Bookstart pack before they are 12 months old and again aged 3-4 years (27 months in Wales). There are also black-and-white booklets for newborns and dual language books.[3]

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.[4]

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,[5] these include:

  • Bookshine for children who are deaf
  • Booktouch for children who are blind or partially sighted
  • Bookstart Star for children with conditions affecting their fine motor skills

Bookgifting programmesEdit

As well as Bookstart, BookTrust also runs the following programmes and campaigns that give out books, resources and support to children:

  • Time to Read: Time to Read packs give a free book to every Reception aged child in England, when they are 4 or 5-years-old. [6]
  • 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 or 8 the chance to choose their own book from a list of titles for children aged 11-13, regardless of their reading ability or learning age. The books are selected by a panel of experts. [7]
  • The School Library Pack: School Library Pack is a free offering of books and resources to schools in England with Year 7 (or equivalent) students. The programme is funded by Arts Council England. [8]
  • 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 3 to 13 years old in foster families. Children are enrolled by local authorities and schools.
  • Spark: Spark is a programme for special schools designed to inspire a love of stories and books in children with additional needs.


  • Booktrust Early Years Award: Originally called the Sainsbury’s Baby Book Award(s), was a set of annual literary prizes for children's picture books that from 1999 to 2004 was sponsored by the supermarket chain Sainsbury's. The last Awards year was 2010.
  • Blue Peter Book Awards: The Blue Peter Book Awards is run in collaboration with CBBC's Blue Peter. The award has recognised authors and illustrators since 2000.
  • Waterstones 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.[9] The Laureate must have a substantial body of work; previous Children's Laureates include Michael Morpurgo, Julia Donaldson and Malorie Blackman. Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon (novel series) books, is the current Children's Laureate. [10]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: The BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a children's writer or illustrator whose body of work merits recognition for a lifetime's achievement in children's literature. It was set up in 2015. In 2019, Meg and Mog illustrator Jan Pieńkowski was awarded the prize. [11]
  • Sainsbury's Children's Book Awards: In partnership with BookTrust, this prize highlights the best children's books for families to share together. The 2019 Book of the Year was My Pet Star by Corrinne Averiss. [12]
  • Storytime Prize: This prize was set up in 2019 and celebrates and promotes the best books for sharing and repeat reading with young children. The first book to win the prize is Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett. [13]

Projects and campaignsEdit

  • BookTrust Represents: A three-year project to promote children’s authors and illustrators of colour. The project researched the representation of people of colour among children’s book authors and illustrators, in collaboration with University College London, in early 2019. It found that less than 2% of published authors and illustrators in the UK are British people of colour. [14]
  • Pyjamarama: Pyjamarama is an annual fundraising campaign in England that began in 2019. Primary schools and nurseries are encouraged to spend a day in pyjamas to raise funds for BookTrust and get more children reading. The next Pyjamarama date is 5 June 2020. To raise awareness of the bedtime story during that week, libraries, children centres and other community settings in England and Wales will hold free events and give out copies of a book distributed by BookTrust (not yet announced). [15]


On Friday 17 December 2010 it was announced that the government would cut its entire £13 million annual grant to BookTrust's English bookgifting schemes. The schemes, including Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up, 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 continues to be supported using public funding by Arts Council England.


  1. ^ BookTrust, "About us". Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  2. ^ Lovereading, "Blue Peter Book Awards 2018". Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  3. ^ Bookstart, "Bookstart for families". Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  4. ^ Bookstart, "History of Bookstart". Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  5. ^ Bookstart, "Packs for children with additional needs". Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  6. ^ Primary Times, "BookTrust gifts every reception aged child in England with picture book The Bumblebear". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  7. ^ School Library Association, "BookTrust announces new books for Bookbuzz 2018 programme". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  8. ^ Association of School and College Leaders, "Free books for your school library". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Everything you need to know about the Waterstones Children's Laureate".
  10. ^ BBC, "Children's Laureate: Who is Cressida Cowell?". Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  11. ^ The Guardian, "Jan Pieńkowski: inside the mind behind Meg and Mog – picture essay". Retrieved 26 November 2019
  12. ^ The Bookseller, "Averiss and Beardshaw win Book of the Year at Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards". Retrieved 26 November 2019
  13. ^ The Bookseller, "Emily Gravett's squirrel tale scoops the inaugural BookTrust Storytime Prize". Retrieved 26 November 2019
  14. ^ BookTrust, "BookTrust Represents". Retrieved 26 November 2019
  15. ^ BookTrust, "Jump into your PJs with BookTrust". Retrieved 26 November 2019

External linksEdit