The Tree, the key and Me spread

Personalised books and literacy

4 minute read

When we set up Librio, we unanimously agreed that we wanted to build a company which not only gives joy to the children and adults who receive our books, but also gives something back to the society our children will grow up in.


We also wanted to do more than “just” donate money to a charity of our choice.


So we looked at how we could use our products to make the biggest possible contribution to society.


The more we looked, the more we realised that the products we were making - personalised books - are actually a field of research in themselves and have been suggested to have a positive impact in engaging children with books. This excited us greatly and led us to forge relationships with charities supporting literacy in the country where the Librio book is bought.


The first charity we contacted was the National Literacy Trust.


Our initial thought was to explore the possibility of working with them to do a TOMS-style One for One campaign where, for every book sold on Librio, we would give a personalised book to a child in a National Literacy Trust target area. Unsurprisingly, this proved to be financially and logistically unviable (for now, it's still a longer-term target).

We took a step back and considered whether a One for One program was even the right route to take. With TOMS, it's pretty clear. If you give shoes to a child with no shoes, it will almost certainly improve their quality of life.


If you give a child who's not interested in reading a book which shows them as the hero, will it almost certainly improve their interest in reading? Intuitively, you'd imagine it would, but committing to a program of that complexity without knowing if it's even necessary or effective would not have been a sensible course of action.


So we focussed on research. We were aware of a few studies which pointed to personalised books having a positive impact on children's and parents' enjoyment of reading, but these studies were scattered around the internet and not available in a cohesive, easy to consume format.


This is where the National Literacy Trust came in. We parented with them to gather all the current data on personalised books and their role in boosting literacy skills.


The result is the Literature Review which is being published today by The National Literacy Trust in collaboration with Librio.


Personalised print books could significantly boost children’s early literacy skills. Read it here. 


The review's findings are fascinating and do support the intuitive feeling we had that personalised books could be an extremely useful tool in encouraging reluctant readers that they are welcome in the world of books and they can be agents of change in the world around them.

This collaboration forms step one of our three phase plan. Our plan looks as follows:


Step 1: Carry out a review of research related to personalised books to assess their potential effectiveness in combatting literacy issues.


Step 2: Fund our own large-scale field research to ascertain the most effective way of using personalised books to encourage reading.


Step 3: Develop research-based personalised books which we can then distribute on a large scale.


It really is amazing to see how your focus and drive can change once your business has a purpose other than creating and selling a product. We've put a lot of heart and soul into our products and feel they are worthy additions to children's bookshelves on their own merit.

However, there's a different level of excitement around the office knowing that we're creating a pathway to inspiring and empowering thousands of less fortunate children around the world at the same time as providing a great shared reading experience for the families lucky enough to have one of our books.


From the moment we met the National Literacy Trust, it was clear we were on the right path to aligning our business and social goals. This is just the first step, but we look forward to what lies ahead with a sense of purpose and anticipation unlike anything I've ever experienced in business before.


And to think this all came about because I wanted to make a nice birthday present for my daughter. If we can build Librio to something which can help improve the society which she will inherit from us, I'd say that's a present worth waiting for.

1 Comment
  • Georgina Donaldson

    November 21, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I am so looking forward to seeing the book, and my granddaughter’s reaction to it. But since she is in Canada it will be a while! I think I might just have to order another one to have here in UK – just so as I can! Maybe it would feature her brother. Maybe that would be just too confusing! We’ll see… 🙂