An Post launches Unlocking Life to address reading and writing issues among adults and children

Initiative hopes to help break the cycle of literacy problems to access more opportunities in life


An Post’s Unlocking Life literacy initiative was launched by Simon Harris TD, Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science at An Post’s EXO Building HQ today to support those who struggle with unmet literacy needs.


Working with their partners in Literacy, the campaign aims to raise awareness of unmet reading and writing needs among adults and children and to support the work of those organisations dedicated to addressing the challenge. The An Post Unlocking Life initiative was supported by Patricia Forde, Laureate na nÓg (Ireland’s Children’s Literature Laureate) and children’s author and illustrator, Alan Nolan reading their favourite stories to a group of first-class primary school students from St Patrick’s National School, Ringsend and St Laurence O’Toole National School, Seville Place, Dublin 1.


An Post will partner with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), Children’s Books Ireland and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  One in six adults struggle to read and understand information, while one in four face difficulties with basic maths.  For some, unmet literacy needs can lead to low educational attainment, reduced income, poor health and higher unemployment rates.


Speaking at the official launch of Unlocking Life Minister Simon Harris said,


“I welcome An Post’s well established and longstanding commitment to literacy in Ireland for over 20 years. Unlocking Life will help to bring greater awareness of literacy supports available to people free of charge around the country breaking the cycle of generations of literacy problems, making it possible for more of our citizens to access greater opportunities in life. An Post’s collaborative and partnership-centred approach to getting the message out about literacy is exactly the vision of the Adult Literacy for Life (ALL) Strategy, which ensures that we take a whole of Government and whole of society approach to literacy. Our aims in the ALL Strategy are ambitious. We want to reduce the number of adults in Ireland with unmet literacy needs from 18% to 7%. Unlocking Life will significantly contribute to achieving these ambitions and improve people’s lives.


That is why I am delighted to help launch Unlocking Life, and welcome An Post’s continuing commitment to social good and to building a better society for us all.”


Sending his good wishes for the success of the programme President Michael D. Higgins (Patron of BITCI) said


“As World Literacy Day on 8th September 2023 approaches, it is heartening to see organisations like An Post taking proactive steps to address intergenerational literacy struggles, ensuring that every person in our society, regardless of their circumstances or background, has access to the resources and support needed to overcome literacy challenges.


Your commitment to fostering a culture of reading and learning, providing individuals with the tools they need to lead more fulfilling lives and contribute positively to our society, will undoubtedly have a far-reaching impact on the lives of many people, both children and adults, throughout Ireland.”


Debbie Byrne, Managing Director, An Post Retail, remarked


Right now, one in six adults in Ireland can feel locked out of life because they struggle with reading and understanding information. At An Post, we’re supporting reading and writing programmes for adults and children all over Ireland to help empower and unlock opportunity for everyone. In a world built on words, struggling with reading and writing keeps people locked out of participating in everyday life.


People facing literacy challenges are more likely to report poor health, political disengagement, low participation in volunteer activities, and decreased trust in others. An Post has had a longstanding commitment to literacy in Ireland for over 20 years, but through our commitment to Unlocking Life we will reach out to our fellow citizens, many of whom feel like they have been locked out of some aspects of life due to unmet literacy needs. This is at the core of An Post’s Purpose which is to act for the common good and to improve the quality of life in Ireland, now and for generations to come.


The An Post Unlocking Life will have both a child and an adult stream of activity.


Children’s Stream


As part of the children’s stream An Post is partnering with BITCI (Business in the Community Ireland) as the headline sponsor of their Time to Read & Time to Count programmes. An Post staff will volunteer in local schools, providing paired-reading sessions and support to help unlock the potential of disadvantaged children. The An Post Time to Count numeracy support programme will improve children’s confidence and enjoyment of numbers through playing specifically selected board games while the An Post Time to Read will pair An Post staff with a student reading buddy for reading sessions using a range of books to improve students literacy through enjoyment.


Speaking about the launch, Tomás Sercovich, CEO, Business in the Community Ireland observed


Since Time to Read commenced in 2010 the national rollout of the programme has seen over 3,143 volunteer participants and over 3,536 children participating.  There are currently 52 schools and 730 students participating in Time to Read and Time to Count programmes. Together, An Post and BITC plan to double these participation numbers to over 110 schools and 1,400 students by the 2024-2025 academic year, thanks to funding support provided by An Post as well as the Community Foundation for Ireland.”


A separate BITCI Student Mentoring Programme will pair An Post staff with post-primary, senior cycle students for monthly one-to-one mentoring sessions at An Post premises. Also, An Post engagement on the BITCI World of Work programme will also see employees give insights into the future working world and the necessary soft skills required to 2nd year students in a post-primary school near their EXO Dublin headquarters.


An Post has partnered with Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) for the past five years, coming together on initiatives such as the Pride Reading Guide 2023 and World Book Day 2023.  Children’s Books Ireland Book Clinics and the ImagineNation playbook. Welcoming the launch of Unlocking Life Elaina Ryan, CEO, Children’s Books Ireland noted


“This year we were delighted to have An Post’s support to deliver over 14,000 books to children on World Book Day in 2023. We were also thrilled to publish our updated Pride Reading Guide this summer, featuring 200 LGBTQ+-inclusive books for readers aged 0–18, offering ways to encourage solidarity, allyship and confidence in children and young people. We produced the guide in partnership with the An Post #ReadersWanted campaign, which will continue through 2023. We look forward to working with An Post to encourage young readers all over Ireland in the coming years.” 


An Post will also continue  their vital work with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, delivering thousands of books to children. On behalf of the Imagination Library programme, Marion Quinn, CEO of Childhood Development Initiative thanked An Post for delivering books for free to thousands of children aged 0-5 every month in the Dublin 24 postal district and areas of Cork city.


Children can receive a book a month addressed to them, at no cost to the family. Countless parents have shared how excited their child is when their new book arrives each month. The service encourages their early reading, concentration skills and helps prepare them for starting school. In 2022,

An Post supported the delivery of 72,856 books for free to children through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. To date, in 2023 50,076 books have been delivered and we look forward to this continuing in the coming years.”


Adult Stream


In the Adult Stream, An Post supports Adult Literacy for Life (ALL) - a ten year Strategy that ensures we take a whole of Government and whole of society approach to literacy. The ALL Strategy’s vision is of an Ireland where every adult has the necessary literacy, numeracy and digital literacy to fully engage in society and realise their potential.


Through Unlocking Life, An Post will partner with NALA, the Regional Literacy Coordinators and Education and Training Boards Ireland in supporting awareness building through selected Post Offices in September 2023.


An Post will support NALA’s work to help improve adults’ reading and writing skills by sponsoring International Literacy Day on Sept 8th 2023 and in running an advertising recruitment campaign to encourage adults to return to education in Autumn 2023. 


Colleen Dube, CEO, NALA said, "In Ireland over 500,000 people struggle with reading and understanding information. This means they may be unable to fill in a form, vote, read medicine labels, help their children with homework or read to their children.  We hope that with An Post's support, we'll have 30% more independent adult learners on Learn with Nala, our eLearning platform, by 2025. We encourage adults who feel they need help to call us on 1800 20 20 80."


Separately, An Post has extended their sponsorship of the An Post Book Awards until 2025, celebrating the best of writing and the joy of reading. An Post has also increased their investment in BookTok, a sub-community on TikTok that focuses on books and literature. Creators make videos reviewing, discussing, and joking about the books they read.


The An Post Unlocking Life Campaign will launch on International Literacy Day, Friday 8th September 2023 and run for four weeks while the various initiatives will run throughout this year and next. 

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