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Oak National Academy and the National Literacy Trust launch virtual school library to ensure access to books during school closures

Student in library

National online classroom partners with National Literacy Trust (@Literacy_Trust) to provide free digital library 

Much-loved children’s authors offering free electronic copies of their work on weekly basis

Oak National Academy, the country’s online classroom set up in response to Covid-19, is today launching a new virtual library in partnership with The National Literacy Trust. This will provide free access to books for children across the UK as we go into the third national lockdown.  

The launch of the free digital library comes as over 2.2 million pupils accessed the online school in the first week of term, taking part in over 15 million lessons after measures were taken to close schools across the UK to the majority of children on the first day of term. 

The Virtual School Library hosts free reading and writing content from much-loved children’s authors – providing a free-to-access book every week from the platform’s author of the week. 

Dame Jacqueline Wilson DBE’s The Story of Tracy Beaker, illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Penguin Random House Children’s UK) is the first book to feature and will be entirely free to access and read for a week from 11th January. 

Jacqueline Wilson, author of The Story of Tracy Beaker, Hetty Feather and the first author of the week in the Virtual School Library, said: 

“I’m thrilled to be the first author of the week on the new Virtual School Library from the National Literacy Trust and Oak National Academy.  I think it’s vitally important that every child should have an opportunity to access books.  As most schools – and their libraries – are closed at the moment the free online library is needed more than ever. 

“I try to write about interesting sparky characters in realistic settings, so I hope readers will be able to relate to their situations and develop a lifelong love of reading.” 

Other upcoming titles include Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World, written by Konnie Huq (Piccadilly Press), which explores a girl’s passion for science, as well as books from authors including Jeremy Strong and longstanding publishing partners Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.

The initiative aims to increase access to ebooks and audiobooks for the most disadvantaged young readers during school closures and support the literacy of children most adversely affected by COVID-19. Research by The National LiteracyTrust during the initial school closures in 2020 found that almost 1 in 2 (46.3%) children said that they had read new books during lockdown and 1 in 7 (14.1%) had re-read books they have at home. 

The research found that children reported the benefits of reading for children during the pandemic to be significant, with 3 in 5 (59.3%) children and young people saying that reading makes them feel better and 3 in 10 (31.6%) that reading helps them when they feel sad because they cannot see their family and friends. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: 

“Oak National Academy is an invaluable remote education resource, with 10,000 video lessons available across a broad range of subjects. The programme has provided fantastic support for schools and teachers. 

“While schools are closed for the majority of pupils, the learning and development of children must continue. Reading is hugely beneficial not only for children’s literacy skills, but also their mental health and wellbeing. This virtual library is a fantastic resource for children to access a free book every week from a range of wonderful authors. 

“I would like to thank Oak and the National Literacy Trust for all they are doing, and I hope many families enjoy the access to such a huge choice of good books.” 

Matt Hood OBE, Principal of Oak National Academy, said:
“Reading is such a fundamental part of a child’s development. Access to books, like technology, is not a given for many of our most disadvantaged pupils. 

“We know a love of reading starts with access to books. With millions of children learning with Oak National Academy over the first week of term, it’s incredible to be able to add to our offer something vital for children’s literacy and their mental wellbeing. 

“We’re thrilled to be working with The National Literacy Trust on such an exciting project to make much needed access to books freely available to children, families and schools.” 

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, comments:
“The Virtual School Library is a fantastic tool for children, families and educators. We are entering another extremely difficult time and Oak Academy’s infrastructure and reach is essential for allowing as many children as possible to access a world of great literature.   

“It is an honour to launch with Jacqueline Wilson, who is renowned for her ability to engage children and adults alike in a love of reading. We are working with a range of excellent authors and publishers over the year to inspire and entertain children. 

“Many children’s literacy skills were profoundly affected by the first lockdown and school closures. We will do everything in our power to support children, families and teachers during this new lockdown period.” 


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