The Literacy Pirates

Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship

In 2022, we awarded The Literacy Pirates £35,000 over two years to help young people develop their literacy, confidence, and perseverance.


Grant type

Widening participation

Grant date


Grant size



2 years



The Literacy Pirates was founded in 2011 by a Hackney-based school teacher who wanted to help young people falling behind in literacy. By giving children the opportunity to enjoy reading and writing, they empower young people to reinvent themselves as successful learners both in and outside of the classroom.

Children aged 9 to 13 develop literacy, confidence and perseverance through afterschool programmes from joyful pirate-themes spaces in Hackney, Haringey, and online. Aboard these 'Ships', children come together to read books, play games and practice writing with small group support from trained volunteers.

We’re proud our grant has been used to help fund the production of a published book, the recruitment of new volunteers, and maintenance of the exciting learning spaces. We loved our recent visit to The Literacy Pirates where we were enthusiastically invited onboard the Hackney Ship for an after-school session.

Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Image caption: Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Image caption: Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship

Over the past decade, The Literacy Pirates has built strong relationships with local primary and secondary schools to help them reach children who’ll benefit the most from having literacy support. Schools nominate students who're falling behind in class and have fewer opportunities in their personal lives.

Once enrolled onto the programme, young people – known as Young Pirates – are offered personalised literacy support which is delivered by dedicated teachers and trained volunteers. Every week, Young Pirates are given the chance to take part in fun sessions where they discuss books and create imaginative pieces of writing.

During our recent visit, we listened to the Young Pirates excitedly read out loud a chapter of ‘Troo Friend’ by Kirsty Applebaum as well as seeing them get started on writing a fun newspaper report. It was great to see how committed and engaged all of the Young Pirates and volunteers were with the session.

Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Image caption: Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Image caption: Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship
Image caption: Literacy Pirates Hackney Ship

At The Literacy Pirates, having fun is at the heart of everything they do and there’s no better way of seeing this than through the design of their pirate ships. When first boarding the ship, you’re met with the inside of a pirate boat that is lined with colourful books and fun decorations.

One of our favourite parts of the ship is the flight of stairs: each one is painted with the Young Pirates’ favourite authors and books. We were also lucky enough to walk through the hidden doorway and say hello to the classroom goldfish.

The bottom of the ship is where Young Pirates in Primary School meet once a week for a teacher-leader session. Fantastic session leaders, such as Shevelle, help Young Pirates to develop their love for learning so that they‘re better equipped to access the opportunities education offers them.

I have seen firsthand the significant improvements that our sessions bring to our Young Pirates' ability to believe in themselves, dream bigger, and make weekly progress so that they can succeed at school and beyond.

Shevelle Serita
Session Leader

Shevelle shared her experience of being a session leader with us, and explained the importance of helping Young Pirates to build on their literacy skills from a young age.

'Throughout my career in support, coaching and in business, I've seen the impacts people can face when experiencing challenges in literacy - impacts on their confidence, personal development, and even their sense of self/identity. Literacy affects not just children's success at school but what they can go on to achieve in their futures, too.'

Literacy skills and engagement in education can hugely impact the life chances of young people from low socio-economic backgrounds. Through the support of inspiring session leaders and volunteers, The Literacy Pirates helps young people to reach their full potential.

Between 2022 and 2023, almost 400 young pirates received personalised literacy support and around 20% made an outstanding 16 months of reading progress or more. In addition to this, 96% of the Young Pirates’ parents or carers saw an overall improvement. You can read the full Impact Report here.

It was great to see all the fantastic work that's going into supporting young people to find the joy of reading for pleasure. We really enjoyed being able to see all that goes into supporting Young Pirates to develop their literacy, confidence, and perseverance.

Interested to learning more? Check out their website.