The Queen and Literacy

An avid reader, The Queen has a strong interest in shining a spotlight on the importance of literacy. As Duchess of Cornwall, Her Majesty became Patron of several organisations which promote and support literacy, including: National Literacy Trust, Book Trust, First Story, the Wicked Young Writer Awards and Beanstalk.

The Queen in a library

The Queen is recognised as an important champion of literacy in the UK and internationally. As a grandmother, Her Majesty understands the joy of reading, but also the importance of literacy in creating life opportunities.

Across the UK and oversees, Her Majesty has visited schools and libraries, as well as workplace reading schemes and prisons to see the work of adult literacy schemes. 

The Queen and the First Lady of Rwanda in a library in Rwanda

Her Majesty's first solo engagement following the Coronation, on 18th May 2023, was to Shirehampton Primary School in Bristol, where she launched the first of 50 Coronation Libraries, created by the National Literacy Trust.

Created across the UK in 2023 and 2024 in collaboration with Primary School Library Alliance, the Coronation libraries and reading spaces will be established in communities with low levels of literacy, where the cost-of-living crisis is biting hardest and children are least likely to have books at home.

The Queen at the Shirehampton Coronation Library

Each library or reading space will be refurbished, restocked and two members of staff will be trained to manage it and deliver a range of reading activities for the whole school. In addition, a commemorative Coronation plaque will be placed in each library.

For many years, The Queen has been involved with BBC "500 Words" creative writing competition for children, both as a judge and attending the finals. 

In 2024, the 500 Words final was held at Buckingham Palace with The Queen welcoming finalists, judges and celebrity readers to watch performances and listen to the winning stories. 

Hosted by comedian and children’s author, Romesh Ranganathan, the six winners were announced, and their stories read by celebrity readers from the realms of film, theatre, and television. The Grand Final was filmed for a special episode of The One Show, airing on World Book Day 2024.

As Vice-Patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Her Majesty supports its flagship literacy project The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition and has hosted the annual winners’ reception at Buckingham Palace since 2013. On a recent visit to the BBC World Service, The Queen also recorded a conversation with two previous winners of the competition to promote the importance of the QCEC, including a young writer from India. This was broadcast across The Commonwealth during the Platinum Jubilee period.

Over the last few years Her Majesty has also attended overseas events to launch that year’s competition in New Zealand, St Vincent, Ghana, Gambia and Malaysia.

The Queen and the First Lady of Ghana

In 2020, The Queen joined the film-maker Taika Waititi as a guest for a charitable reading of James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl on YouTube. The campaign, run by the Roald Dahl Story Company, also supported charities helping those affected by Covid-19.  

During the national lockdown, Her Majesty published a list of her favourite book recommendations over the Easter weekend in 2020, and shared more in August 2020. The hugely positive response to these lists prompted The Duchess to create an online space to continue this conversation, and in January 2021 The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room Instagram account was launched – a community space for book lovers to visit, and to see videos, photographs and commentary from some of The then Duchess’s recommended authors.

In March 2023, The Queen, joined by The King, brought together authors, members of the literary community and representatives of literacy charities to celebrate the second anniversary of the Reading Room and to announce its relaunch as a charity.

The Queen's Reading Room

During the reception, Her Majesty said:

Human beings have always needed the connection of literature – its wisdom as well as its sheer escapism. In today’s challenging climate, we need it more than ever. 

The Queen's Reading Room continues to celebrate books from a diverse range of authors around the world, chosen for their literary, educative and historic merit. The charity seeks to close the gap between writers and readers through accessible, educational and free literary content available year-round through its social media and online platforms. Its purpose is to help more people find and connect with books which enrich their lives, turning them into lifelong readers.

In June, The Queen's Reading Room staged its first literary festival at Hampton Court Palace, with speakers including Dame Judi Dench, David Olusoga, Kamila Shamsie, Austentatious, Ben Macintyre and Ken Follett.

The Queen's Reading Room Festival

The Queen became Patron of the Royal Society of Literature, when she was The Duchess of Cornwall, and over the past few years has been involved in the Booker Prize for Fiction, presenting the awards in the pre-pandemic years.

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