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Campaigning triumph: party leaders agree to get kids reading

Carlito, 5, reads his book in the playground at his school in Greater Manchester.
Carlito, 5, reads his book in the playground at school in Greater Manchester.

When you’re campaigning for change, the moments when you secure a victory that will make a difference to children’s lives can feel few and far between.

This is especially the case when you’re trying to achieve something huge, like getting ALL 11-year-olds in the UK reading well by 2025 – the goal of the Read On. Get On. campaign. But on 9 April we achieved something big – which our network of campaigners across the country played a major role in winning.

Reading well unlocks a child’s potential and gives them the best possible chance of making the most of the opportunities that life will present them. Critically it’s also one of the most effective ways of helping our poorest children escape a life of poverty.

That’s why this issue means so much to us here at Save the Children.

A major breakthrough

We wanted to get the message out there that reading with our children for just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference.

We asked our supporters and the wider public to share photos on social media of them reading with their children on 9 April. And with an election on the horizon, we also asked parliamentary candidates to share their own photos or pictures as they visited schools, libraries and children’s centres on the campaign trail.

The response was amazing. Election candidates from across the political spectrum tweeted their support for the campaign, while celebrities including Frank Lampard, Gareth Edwards and Lauren Laverne got involved and shared their photos with millions of followers.

And all this noise helped us achieve something amazing. Not only did David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg share their own photos and messages of support but their parties committed to the Read On. Get On. goal – a major breakthrough for children in England, and success that we want to replicate across the UK.

Beyond political argument

Don’t underestimate the scale of this achievement. With a general election in less than a month, these political parties are trying to emphasise their differences.

Yet despite that, we managed to get the three main parties to agree on something: support for our goal of getting all children reading well by the time they leave primary school.

Moving the issue of children’s literacy beyond political argument and getting this kind of consensus increases our chances of securing the action we need from the next government to achieve our goals.

That’s not to say we’re there, far from it. But we now have promises of support that we can hold the next UK government to. Together we secured these, and together we need to ensure they are kept.

And looking beyond Westminster, we need to put reading front and centre of the political debate in the run up to the 2016 elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So over the coming weeks and months, that is what we’ll be focusing on. Together with parents, schools, community leaders, celebrities and businesses from across the UK, we’ll be putting the pressure on decision makers to get the UK’s children reading. I hope you’ll be part of it.

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