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Children will be able to access books online for free during school closures

By Eleanor Busby
Children will be able to access books online for free during school closures.

Oak National Academy, a UK Government-backed virtual school, is launching a virtual library so pupils can read books from popular children’s authors digitally during the latest lockdown.

The library, formed with The National Literacy Trust, has been launched after measures were taken to close schools in England to the majority of pupils until February half-term.

Children will be provided with a free-to-access book every week from the library’s author of the week.

The initiative aims to increase access to e-books and audiobooks for the most disadvantaged young readers during closures and support the literacy of children most affected by Covid-19.

The launch of the library came as 4.1 million pupils accessed the Oak National Academy in the past fortnight – and more than 28 million lessons have been provided since the start of the new school term on January 4.

All pupils in England – except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils – have moved to remote education until mid-February amid school closures.

Dame Jacqueline Wilson’s The Story Of Tracy Beaker, illustrated by Nick Sharratt, is the first book to feature and will be entirely free to access and read for a week from January 17.

Dame Jacqueline said: “I think it’s vitally important that every child should have an opportunity to access books. As most schools – and their libraries – are closed at the moment, the free online library is needed more than ever.”

Matt Hood, principal of Oak National Academy, said: “We know a love of reading starts with access to books. With millions of children learning with Oak National Academy over the first week of term, it’s incredible to be able to add to our offer something vital for children’s literacy and their mental wellbeing.”

Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “We are entering another extremely difficult time and Oak Academy’s infrastructure and reach is essential for allowing as many children as possible to access a world of great literature.”

He added: “Many children’s literacy skills were profoundly affected by the first lockdown and school closures. We will do everything in our power to support children, families and teachers during this new lockdown period.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “While schools are closed for the majority of pupils, the learning and development of children must continue. Reading is hugely beneficial not only for children’s literacy skills, but also their mental health and wellbeing.

“This virtual library is a fantastic resource for children to access a free book every week from a range of wonderful authors.”

To visit the library, go to

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