TikTok bookshelves to open across UK to get young people reading

Communities across UK to get 20 bookshelves to kick off initiative

Shahana Yasmin
Friday 10 May 2024 11:54 BST
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TikTok is teaming up with the National Literacy Trust (NLT) to place “BookTok Bookshelves” in 11 UK areas that need a boost in literacy levels.

Cities like Birmingham, Blackpool, Bradford, Doncaster, Manchester, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Peterborough, Stoke and Swindon will get 20 BookTok Bookshelves starting with around 100 books each.

The shelves will be placed in areas which see a lot of children over 13, like youth clubs and community centres.

TikTok will be paying for the books and shelves while NLT youth volunteers will help by choosing the books that will go on the shelves, along with promoting the campaign among peers.

NLT has said they will recruit and train around 50 youth volunteers from 20 communities for the initiative.

BookTok is a section on TikTok which has grown extremely popular in the last few years for driving sales for books and developing and sustaining an interest in reading among its young audience.

This sub-community features users who make videos talking about and reviewing books they are reading and their thoughts on literature as a whole. While the genres are varied, BookTokers usually tend to favour young adult fiction, particularly fantasy and romance.

TikTok and NLT are working together to “harness the appeal of TikTok and its ability to connect and inspire young people, to motivate reading for pleasure, striving to boost literacy levels by increasing access to books across the UK,” said Ali Law, TikTok’s director of public policy and government affairs, UK and Ireland.

The BookTok community features users who make videos talking about and reviewing books they are reading and their thoughts on literature as a whole
The BookTok community features users who make videos talking about and reviewing books they are reading and their thoughts on literature as a whole (Getty Images)

Recent NLT research showed that one in 12 children aged five to 18 do not own a book of their own, and less than three in 10 children aged eight to 18 read daily.

“As a charity, we strive to boost literacy levels across the UK, particularly in our most disadvantaged communities, by increasing access to books and reaching people where they are – and in a way that feels meaningful to them,” said Jason Vit, head of local areas for the NLT.

“We know the appeal of brands like TikTok for the young people we want to support.”

“Through this partnership we can tap into their interests and create opportunities to inspire and encourage reading among their peers; the benefits of which our research shows extend to all areas of their lives.”

NLT aims for each bookshelf to be different, with a “range of different themes and interests” curated specifically for the interests of community by the volunteers.

The first bookshelf in Nottingham “will have titles from homegrown and international author talent”, like Malorie Blackman, Holly Jackson, Hafsah Faizal, Neil Gaiman and Alice Oseman.

“The idea is for young people, who may otherwise struggle to access books of their own for financial or other reasons, to borrow a book which appeals to them, share it with a friend who might enjoy it, too, and return it to the bookshelf for another young person to enjoy,” said Vit.

“We hope the BookTok Bookshelves will increase young people’s appetite for reading and therefore the demand for books, forming part of a reading ecosystem that includes schools, libraries and bookshops.”

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