McDonald’s UK wide Happy Readers Bus Tour stops in Belfast and Derry-Londonderry as part of national literacy campaign.
As the UK’s largest distributor of free children’s books, McDonald’s recognises that a change as little as owning a book can change a lot about a child’s future. McDonald’s has donated thousands of books to children in Northern Ireland, as part of its national literacy campaign that will see it donate half a million books to disadvantaged children across the UK in the next four weeks.
According to the National Literacy Trust, as of 2022, one in five children across the UK say they do not have access to a book of their own at home, an increase of 2.3% since before the pandemic started. The issue is considerably greater in young boys, with 21% without a book, compared to 16% of girls.
In new research specially commissioned by McDonald’s, meanwhile, 39% of parents surveyed in Northern Ireland say their child reads less outside of the school term, with just 42% saying reading plays a central role in their child’s daily routine.
92% of parents believe reading is essential to their child’s academic development, with the same number also seeing it as essential for their emotional development. 84% believe it is even more important than ever since the pandemic.
Over half of local parents say their child appears calmer during or after reading, with one third (33%) saying they sleep better and almost three quarters (72%) believing reading is essential to managing their child’s stress levels.
Encouragingly, 81% of parents surveyed in Northern Ireland say they take their child to their local library. Of the 19% who do not avail of a library, 57% say this is because they do not have enough time due to working full time.
McDonald’s Franchisee Des Lamph joined McDonald’s crew members on the Happy Readers Bus Tour, which visited Abbey Centre and Crescent Link Retail Park in Derry-Londonderry as part of its 18-city national tour. During the visits, ambassadors led live book readings and distributed thousands of books to children passing through.
Mr Lamph, who owns and operates the McDonald’s Abbey Centre restaurant, said: “The academic and emotional benefits of reading are so clear. However, with almost two thirds (64%) of parents saying the amount of money they have to spend on books has decreased since the cost of living crisis began and half (49%) believing that books are too expensive now, at McDonald’s we want to ensure that every child can own a book.
“With research showing over 60% of children say reading or being read to is one of their top three activities, we were thrilled to bring the Happy Bus to Northern Ireland.”
McDonald’s book donations include favourites such as Little People Big Dreams, Hair Love and The BFG. Books will be distributed via McDonald’s restaurants and charities such as National Literacy Trust, Children in Need, Homestart and The Raheem Sterling Foundation.
Television and radio presenter Vernon Kay has partnered with McDonald’s to help raise awareness for the importance of children’s literacy. He is creating a series of special readings of some of the books available for free this year, which will go live on the McDonald’s Family Hub in September.