Local business benefits from free book scheme to close reading age gap in Wales

A bookshop owner from Cardiff has said she has seen a significant increase in sales following a scheme to encourage more children to read.

A recent Senedd report showed Welsh children’s reading standards have fallen dramatically since the pandemic.

Welsh reading tests show the biggest drop which was 11 months behind results in 2020-21.

The education minister said he is concerned the pandemic has undone progress in literacy in Wales. 

A book-gifting project was launched by the Welsh Government last year which provides every child in a state school with a book of their own.

Caban Bookshop, Cardiff

When the scheme was launched, Mr Miles said: “If we want to close the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers, then improving reading skills is vital.”

A bookshop owner in Cardiff said she has seen a boost in sales following the Welsh Government scheme, named ‘Schools Love Reading’. 

In collaboration with the Books Council of Wales, the Welsh Government aimed to support local Welsh bookshops as well as encouraging children to read recreationally.

In a hope to lift reading age averages, children can receive a book voucher of up to £9. This allows the child to choose their own books as opposed to being given one by a teacher or parent.

Elin Edwards, owner of Caban bookshop in Cardiff, said she is feeling the benefits to her business along with 51 other independent Welsh book shops and sellers.

She said: “It is worrying recently that children are reading less, certainly in Welsh. But this scheme is very good for business as thousands of children are now reading and buying books.”

The recent PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) report showed a decline in literacy and reading skills among Welsh school children compared to previous years.

The average score in Wales was “significantly below the previous cycles in 2015 and 2012” (Welsh Gov 2023)

A primary school teacher in Cardiff said children would benefit from reading outside of school, “its really important children read at home”.

Betsan Bartle said children would benefit from reading outside of school.

Since the pandemic we’ve noticed a drop in children’s reading abilities and there’s only so much we can do.”

Betsan Bartle, Teacher at Ysgol y Berllan Deg

170,000 book tokens have been distributed to primary schools across Wales so far.

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said he hoped the scheme will help raise the reading standards “in time”.

“The Schools Love Reading campaign is providing a great opportunity to spread the joy of reading.”

Jeremy Miles