#BirminghamStories and the launch of the National Literacy Trust Hub

The National Literacy Trust is a UK-wide charity
that campaigns to give people the literacy skills they need in life because we know that
literacy is really important for social mobility and for equality. Today at the University of Birmingham we’ve
launched Birmingham Stories. It’s the first literacy hub built in partnership with a University
and it joins a national network of 13 other areas where we’re campaigning for a decade
to improve the skills that people need in life. We’re really excited about the possibilities
for bringing research into the hub. As researchers particularly in the School of English, Drama
and Creative Studies, we’ve already had experience of piloting projects that kind of flow from
our research whether it’s working with young people in storytelling projects or working
with adults and engaging them with literature in new ways or working with teenagers and
helping them to use digital technology to tackle texts that they’ve previously found
intimidating so our work in the next few months is to turn these individual research projects
into programmes that the Hub will help us to amplify and deliver together across the
city and we’ll be combining those with projects driven by the National Literacy Trust’s own
research too which is bringing expertise in other particular areas like their Young Poets
project and their Literacy for Life project. Birmingham Stories over the next ten years
is going to work with campaigning, with projects and programmes and volunteers, especially
students from the University and we’re going to raise literacy levels among communities
that need it most. We know that Birmingham is one of the most
vulnerable areas in the whole country in terms of its literacy need and actually 50% of Birmingham’s
wards rank in the top 10% of literacy needs in the country according to studies that the
National Literacy Trust have done, so we’ve got a strong sense that there’s an urgent
need for some kind of intervention. Even the hub’s name – it’s called Birmingham
Stories, so the idea is to convince the people of Birmingham that they all have a story worth
telling and worth sharing and we want to bring people together to listen to each other’s
stories and learn about people from different communities, different backgrounds, different
parts of the city, so we run this programme called the Story Exchange which involves bringing
together people to swap stories and then to tell each other’s stories back in the first
person so they literally imagine what that story would be like if it really happened
to them so it’s about developing empathy and finding your way into the minds and the lives
of people from different backgrounds in this great city. Our partnership with the University of Birmingham
is an absolute step-change in how National Literacy Trust is delivering our work in communities.
The research expertise, the assets of the University, the fact that it is a civic university
at the heart of this great city, and the student population just give us so many new ways of
working and giving people the skills they need in life.

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