As the UK’s largest distributor of free children’s books, McDonald’s recognises that a change as little as owning a book can change a lot about a child’s future. As well as academic importance, new research reveals that 8 in 10 parents believe reading is essential to their child’s emotional development and happiness.


70% believe this is more important than ever since the pandemic. Yet, according to the National Literacy Trust, as of 2022, 1 in 5 children aged 5 to 8 across the UK say they do not have access to a book of their own at home - an increase of 1.9 percentage points since before the pandemic started.

The issue is considerably greater in young boys, with 21% without a book, compared with 16% of girls. Three in 10(31%) parents say their child reads less outside of the school term and just 31% say reading plays a central role in their child’s daily routine.

The positive impact of books is evident, with almost half (46.0%) of children saying that reading makes them feel better when they are sad. Almost 9 in 10 children said that they would be happy to get a book as a present (87.9%) and 46% of parents rate reading as one of their kids top 3 favourite activities.

As a new school term starts, McDonald’s is donating 500,000 free books in just four weeks to areas across the UK that need them the most, to help ensure as many children as possible go back to school this September with a book in their hand. Due to the rising cost of living, nine in ten (87%) parents say they have less disposable income now and as a result, 64% say the amount of money they have to spend on books for their child has decreased.

Half (51%) say books are simply too expensive now. Two thirds of parents have slashed the amount they spend on books for their children and a third have even started selling books to raise money, highlighting that having access to books at home could fast become a victim of the squeeze on family finances. Despite this, 53% say books remain an essential item in their household shopping.

Michelle Graham-Clare, Chief Marketing Officer at McDonald’s UK, said: “Our mission is to ensure all children, no matter their background, can access the joy of reading. Over the last ten years we’ve given away over 140 million books to family customers in the communities we serve. This September, together with fantastic charity partners, we’re doing our best to ensure as many children as possible start school with a book in the home to spark that lifelong love of reading.”

Vernon Kay has partnered with McDonald’s to help raise awareness for the importance of children’s literacy. He said: “It’s heart-breaking to think that so many children in the UK are without books when the academic and emotional benefits of reading are so clear. Reading is so important to me, and it’s been an integral part of my kid’s development. When they were younger, we loved sitting down together with a good book every night before bed.

“My children are lucky to have had lots of books to inspire and engage them as they’ve grown up, but for many children across the UK that’s sadly not the case. I’m proud to be partnering with McDonald’s, a trusted supporter of children’s literacy since 2013. McDonald’s has given away 130 million free books so far – helping to get more books into the hands of children that need them the most.”

Vernon is creating a series of special readings of some of the books available for free this year, which will go live on the McDonald’s Family Hub in September.

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust said: “Owning your own books is a crucial step in children reading more for pleasure, leading to increased literacy levels and improving a child’s life chances later on in life.

“Low literacy levels can hold you back at school lock you out of the job market, affect your physical and mental health, and even your life expectancy. The National Literacy Trust’s research shows that getting books to children is more important than ever and we are delighted to be working with McDonald have to reach 500, 000 children this autumn.”

McDonald’s book donations include favourites such as Little People Big Dreams, Hair Love and The BFG. Books will be distributed via McDonald’s restaurants and charities such as National Literacy Trust, Children in Need, Homestart and The Raheem Sterling Foundation. McDonald’s is also launching the Happy Readers Book Bus this year with a UK wide tour of 18 cities to help distribute the books.