The UK’s The Reading Agency, “a charity with a mission to inspire more people to read more,” has received a £1 million gift from British independent grants-giving body the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, to support its Reading Activists program, which “gets young people aged 11 to 19 setting up reading and writing groups in local communities.”

Miranda McKearney, founder director of The Reading Agency, said:

“Enjoying reading is a vital engine for social mobility and the acquisition of literacy skills. Children who enjoy reading can better overcome a disadvantaged start in life—because everything changes when we read.”

Paul Hamlyn Foundation“The Reading Agency takes a comprehensive approach to the promotion of reading, working with publishers, authors and writers as well as with libraries,” asserted the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. “Besides encouraging young people and adults to volunteer in their communities, the organisation provides training, runs research programmes and explores new, digital ways of engaging people with reading.”

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation claims to be “one of the UK’s largest independent grant-giving organisations.” It awards grants, “to organisations which aim to maximise opportunities for individuals to experience a full quality of life, both now and in the future,” as well as supporting individual artists, with a strong focus on the arts and education, as well as social betterment.

Commenting, Martin Brookes, Director of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said:

“The Paul Hamlyn Foundation exists because of books, and because Paul Hamlyn combined his ability to sell them in large numbers with his passion for social justice.”

This move tallies with the recent Egmont UK study showing the value of reading for enjoyment as a spur to literacy, and of encouragement of reading at home and elsewhere outside the school setting to develop this. It also highlights once again the atrociously low standards of education and general culture in England, which languishes just above the Czech Republic and Greece in the latest United Nations Human Development Index, despite its G8 status—with almost all of that deficit down to education.

“Confident and skilled readers have greater aspirations and opportunities and that reading brings enjoyment and increases wellbeing,” the Paul Hamlyn Foundation communique continued. “Talking about books and reading also improves the cohesiveness of communities, whilst volunteers are given opportunities for active citizenship, for instance by running events at local libraries.”

Perhaps it is no surprise that Paul Hamlyn, later Baron Hamlyn of Edgeworth, the veteran publisher and philanthropist who endowed the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, was born Paul Bertrand Wolfgang Hamburger in Berlin, and moved to the UK as a Jewish emigre after the Nazi rise to power. He stemmed from cultures and traditions—German and Jewish—that set a far higher value on education and culture than the UK government seems able to muster. And the UN stats are there to show the results.

It’s great that The Reading Agency and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation are there—it’s also deeply sad that they have to stand in for a government that seems to have abdicated its responsibilities.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail