The Literacy Pirates

Giving low literacy the heave-ho  

Literacy is essential for children to succeed at secondary school. But if a child’s reading and writing skills are behind their peers at the age of nine, their confidence is affected and the gap widens. The Literacy Pirates supports children whose literacy skills are below the national average in the crucial years between the ages of nine and 12. The children – called young pirates – practice reading and creative writing with volunteers – called crewmates – in weekly sessions online or at one of two pirate-themed learning centres in Hackney and Haringey, London.

Access to opportunity matters to us and we are pleased to award the Literacy Pirates £25,000 to help them more than double their number of volunteers. These volunteers will help 450 children who are on average 14 months behind their peers to improve their reading and writing by as much as six months each term.   

  • 99% of parents surveyed in 2021-22 year said Literacy Pirates had an overall positive impact on their child’s literacy, confidence and perseverance. 
  • Young Pirates on the in-person programmes in 2021-22 improved their reading age by an average of 17 months across the nine-month programme.
  • 87% of teachers surveyed saw an overall improvement as a result of children joining the programme and 75% noticed a boost in literacy skills.

Positivity, practice and celebration

Literacy Pirates’ programme is devised and led by qualified teachers and built around research on reading for pleasure. Volunteers work on-to-one or in small groups with young pirates talking about reading, creating an environment that celebrates it, and giving children the chance to choose what they want to read. This all helps to foster a love of reading.

Each half term the children all contribute to a creative project. They come up with ideas, write first drafts and volunteers support them with edits and feedback. The children’s work is published in high-quality books, in audio projects, even films screened at a local cinema. Literacy Pirates celebrates young pirates’ hard work in big events with their teachers and family giving them a real sense of achievement.

“Young pirates were to read their stories in front of an audience of other young pirates, crewmates and adults. I had helped one of them to finalise her story and when the reading started, she looked at me to get the encouragement to go on stage. That less than a second of eye contact was so powerful, I loved it! (And of course she did great on stage!)”

Isa, Literacy Pirates crewmate

More Success Stories

Access to Opportunity
Geography: United Kingdom | Year: 2022,2023

Doorstep Library

Doorstep Library reading volunteers are bringing a love of reading into the homes of some of London’s children.
Access to Opportunity
Geography: United Kingdom | Year: 2018

Thomas’s Schools Foundation – Readers’ Cup

The Thomas Schools Foundation was created ‘to enrich the educational experiences’ of children who live in the communities of the their schools.
Access to Opportunity
Geography: United Kingdom | Year: 2018,2019,2020,2021

The Brilliant Club

We’re always looking for innovative and ambitious ideas that are making a difference in education and creating new access to opportunities.