Wates and children’s book project foundations for Leeds reading initiative

Dan Miller, project director, and Ryan Gagg, Wates Assistant project engineer

National contractor Wates Construction has partnered with literacy charity Children’s Book Project to create a book drop-off point at its 11 & 12 Wellington Place site in the centre of Leeds, to help every child experience the joy of book ownership .

Local families or organisations are welcome to donate any good quality children’s books that they may have safely and easily at Wates’ collection point. The Children’s Book Project will then arrange collections and following a 72-hour quarantine to ensure they are Covid safe, distribute to local interested primary schools, ensuring that any child who wants to take part in the project will receive at least one book of their own.

The Children’s Book Project was set up to challenge the ‘book gap’ – with the charity finding that one in eight disadvantaged children own fewer than ten books, while one in four has none. Addressing this has become particularly pertinent during the pandemic, with disrupted schooling and loss of access to their wider community placing greater importance on the escapism and pleasure that books provide.

Wates will be responsible for managing the collection box, which will be located adjacent to Tower Square within the hoarding of the new 11 & 12 Wellington Place, the 245,000 sq ft commercial development currently being built on behalf of developer MEPC, the latest phase in its landmark Wellington Place scheme.

The Leeds installation follows the highly successful similar trial at Wates’ Borough Yards site in London, which saw nearly 8,000 books donated in 12 months – effectively a book for every child at 17 London primary schools. Its initiative at Wellington Place will now act as the first stage in a national rollout across a number of its key city centre sites, planned for later in 2021.

Su Pickerill, group community investment manager at Wates Group, said: “We’re committed to helping our communities and we think this initiative both complements the dozens of schools we’ve built across the UK and is a great way to help make sure our sites leave a lasting legacy in supporting education and children’s learning.

“Our sites have stayed open and accessible throughout the pandemic, and allow passers-by to easily donate books their families have outgrown, putting those inspirational stories directly into other children’s hands.”

Liberty Venn, founder of Children’s Book Project, said: “Books offer more than just learning tools for children – they offer the opportunity for children to immerse themselves in new worlds and possibilities and help nurture an enjoyment of reading that will stay with them for years to come.

“With many children having had a year of disruption and lost access to their wider community, book ownership has become more important than ever. We’re incredibly grateful to Wates for their partnership on this project, and the general public for their donations that make our work possible.”

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