UK Reads Pen Pal Project connects school children in disadvantaged areas of the UK with schools in Africa to improve literacy standards in a fun and enriching interactive experience.  

UK Reads, an initiative of the World Literacy Foundation and their partners in Africa, Sun Books, have come together to enrich disadvantaged children’s lives by writing uplifting pen pal letters to exchange.

Due to the pandemic and school closures many children have missed learning about letter writing and missed the interaction of real letters verses digital classrooms, online gaming and staying at home. Although lots of families may have enjoyed more time together at home due to the year’s lockdowns, many children became isolated with internet learning and social interactions being limited and many younger children may not have gained the ability to write, read and enjoy real letters.

Sutton Trust research showed that 45% of parents of very young children reported a particularly negative impact on their child’s social and emotional development a study run by five leading universities found that disadvantaged parents were less likely to engage in enriching activities during lockdown, particularly those that require access to outdoor space and access to books (University of Oxford 2020). *


Through the World Literacy Foundation’s pen pals project, the children have the opportunity to explore each other’s cultures and engage in crafting beautiful letters for an engaging purpose. This cultural exchange aims to break free of digital meeting rooms and broaden children’s social and creative horizons.

Initially, the first exchange of this supportive literacy intervention will bring together primary school children in severely deprived areas of South Wales, with children in ‘off the grid’ primary schools in Uganda and Nigeria, in sub-Saharan Africa. Through personal letter writing, all of the children involved will have an enriching cultural exchange, increase their confidence and improve their literacy.


The schools that UK Reads are partnering with in Wales are in the most deprived postcodes in the country. Nearly all of the children are living in poverty and face multiple challenges including poor housing and a lack of opportunities. As well as living in poverty many of the children, in both Africa and Wales, also have low self-esteem and struggle in school. There is a serious risk of these children becoming functionally illiterate which is why literacy is a key focus for this project, alongside increasing confidence and connecting diverse groups. 


The Pen Pal Project will enable the children in the Welsh partner school to take part in a once in a lifetime experience to ignite their love for the written word and inspire them to share their voice with children from across the globe. 


Schools from disadvantaged areas, with children needing support in their literacy, are welcome to take part in this fun experience. If you are interested in joining UK Reads’ Pen pal project visit or email:

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