Created: 13th April, 2021

CLPE supports Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell's 'Life-Changing Libraries' Initiative

CLPE are supporting Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell MBE, who has called on the Prime Minister to help reverse the spiralling inequality in education by putting primary school libraries at the heart of our long term response to the pandemic with a ring fenced, yearly investment of £100m.

Cowell stresses that this lack of provision means millions of children – particularly those from the poorest communities worst hit by the pandemic and whose parents cannot afford books at home – are missing out on the opportunity to become a reader for pleasure and the vital benefits this chance brings. Alongside public libraries, school libraries are vital to giving all children access to books and reading. Decades of research including our recent CLPE's Reading for Pleasure in Lockdown research report, shows the importance this has on a child’s educational development, health and well-being, personal growth and future prospects no matter their starting point in life, and how pivotal this is in not only determining a child’s later economic success, but also the economy. [National Literacy Trust, Read On Get On: How reading can help children escape poverty (2014)]

Today, Cowell has also announced plans for a new initiative to showcase the transformative impact a well-resourced primary school library has on a child’s opportunities in life, alongside the vast inequality currently facing children across England including a package of resources and training from CLPE.

Life-changing Libraries is Cressida’s flagship project as the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Laureate. Over the course of a year, six very different primary schools across England – all of which have at least 25% of pupils eligible for free school meals – will be helped to develop a reading for pleasure culture, with the support of BookTrust and Cressida.

The project will spotlight the four pillars of a successful ‘gold standard’ school library – space, book provision, expertise, and whole-school and parent involvement. It is inspired by Cressida’s twenty-year experience visiting schools and grounded in the most recent research into the benefits of reading for pleasure and the challenging financial reality facing primary school libraries.

A bespoke, dedicated library space will be created by BookTrust in each of the six primary schools and stocked with a specially curated book list of approximately 1000 titles, selected by BookTrust’s expert book selection team with guidance from CLPE, to inspire and engage children. Staff will be provided with professional training and mentoring from specialists at the School Library Association, as part of a two year-membership and teachers will have access to the CLPE’s Power of Reading Training and Membership.

Louise Johns-Shepherd, CE at CLPE said: "We at CLPE are very proud to be supporting this campaign. Every day, we see in our work how important libraries in primary schools are and every day we see the transformative power of quality children's literature to young children's literacy learning. Our research has shown us how hard primary schools have worked to get books into the hands of children this year and it has also shown us how difficult that has been when schools don't have the book stock they need. All children need high quality, well resourced libraries and adults who are equipped to support them, we are delighted that we can add our support and our resources to Cressida's campaign."

The project is being supported by: CLPE, Reading Cloud, who are providing a library management system subscription for each school; FG Library and Learning, who are helping refresh spaces with furniture and display products; Promote Your School, who are creating bespoke wall art; Rising Stars Reading Planet and Jobtrain; Tonies, who are providing each school a Toniebox; leading UK publishers, who are donating books to stock the new library spaces. 

Building is set to begin on the libraries in April ahead of officially opening in June 2021. The project will monitor the impact on pupils’ engagement, attitudes and reading behaviour across 12 months, collecting qualitative stories and case studies.

The six schools are: Benwick Primary School (Cambridgeshire), Dinnington Community Primary School (Rotherham), Griffin Primary School (Wandsworth), Saviour CE Primary (Manchester), Skerne Park Primary School (Darlington) and Woodchurch C of E Primary School (Wirral). Schools were invited to apply through BookTrust in conjunction with their local authorities, with this process guided by a Steering Committee of industry experts including the SLA, SLS and primary school senior leaders. As a devolved issue and the campaign specifically for primary schools in England, all schools are in England but in different areas and they all very varied to ensure we are representing how different primary schools are – the things they have in common are either a very poor library provision or no library space at all, and at least 25% of pupils eligible for free school meals.

‘Millions of children, particularly those from the poorest communities worst hit by the pandemic, are missing out on opportunities to discover the life-changing magic of reading – one that OECD research suggests is a key indicator in a child’s future success. How can a child become a reader for pleasure if their parents or carers cannot afford books, and their primary school has no library, or that library is woefully insufficient? I am writing – with the support of former Laureates, literacy organisations, and publishing industry leaders – to ask the Government to help reverse the spiralling inequality in education by putting primary school libraries at the heart of our long term response to the pandemic with a ring fenced, yearly investment of £100m.’ Cressida Cowell MBE, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019 – 2022

For further details on Waterstone Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell’s ‘Life-changing Libraries’ initiative, please visit and to search and support the campaign on social media, please follow #LifeChangingLibraries. 

Read the open letter.

Read our latest research on Reading for Pleasure in Lockdown