Over half a million free books and book tokens distributed to children in Wales

Over half a million free books and book tokens distributed to children in Wales

As the school year draws to a close, the Books Council of Wales and Welsh Government are marking a key milestone in the Schools Love Reading book-gifting project to provide every child in a state school in Wales with a book of their own. Almost 300,000 free books and 170,000 book tokens have been given to pupils as the schools individual gifting stage of the project is completed. Last year around 53,000 books were also given to food banks and community groups in the first phase of the project.

The Books Council of Wales works to promote reading for pleasure and its benefits for mental health and well-being. In partnership with Welsh Government, they have been working to ensure reading and access to books is recognised as an essential, rather than a luxury. As families make difficult spending decisions, recent research suggests parents are now buying fewer books for their children1.

The Schools Love Reading programme provides schools, individual school children, and Welsh communities with books and book vouchers, to make books available to everyone, and in an attempt to support those who may be unable to provide a child with a book of their own.

The programme means learners across Wales have equal access to a diverse range of appealing and quality literature, in Welsh and English, that has been specially selected for children and young people.

Since April 2022, 53,075 free books have been delivered to local food banks and community groups, whilst almost 300,000 books have been gifted to state primary school children across Wales.

Meanwhile, to encourage older children and teenagers to continue to read for pleasure, the scheme has provided state secondary schools with book tokens which students can redeem against a book of their choice. 170,000 book tokens have been distributed, with 51 independent Welsh book shops and sellers participating.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said: “This is a fantastic milestone to reach. It is vital that we do everything we can to help ignite a passion for reading. Books open the door to new skills, boost imagination and play an important role in a child’s development.

“We want to make sure that children enjoy reading and continue to do so. The Schools Love Reading campaign is providing a great opportunity to spread the joy of reading.”

Book-ish in Crickhowell is one of the stores involved in the scheme, and said: “It’s been such a joy to be involved with the Schools Love Reading campaign, watching students pick their books and seeing them broaden their understanding of the world through reading. The scheme has provided so many children with the opportunity to make their first book purchase and allowed children who love to read but may not be able to access resources to acquire their own copies.”

In addition, throughout 2023, every state school in Wales will receive a box of 50 books, to enable learners to enjoy new books in the classroom or school library.

Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy in Conwy just received their box as part of the scheme, and said: “It was a privilege for us to have the author Bethan Gwanas to inspire our pupils with her passion for reading. They loved exploring the diverse range of books from our local bookshop.

“We also took the pupils to Llanrwst Library and the local Welsh language bookshop. It was lovely to see all of them return with a book they had chosen with their voucher.

“These visits not only fostered a love of reading but also connected us to the community. We have been able to share this joy of reading with students from Colombia on an exchange trip, as well as our year 7, 8, and 9 pupils. This initiative has sparked a new interest in personal reading among our pupils.”

The ultimate aim of the Schools Love Reading campaign is to encourage reading for pleasure from a young age. To spread the message, the campaign has enlisted the support of various Welsh personalities, including James Hook, Steffan Powell, Charlotte Harding and Bethany Davies, all of whom have written articles for the Books Council website, exploring their love of reading, and how it has shaped their personal lives and careers. 

In her piece, Wales international footballer, Jess Fishlock MBE, highlights the importance of representing diverse communities in books aimed at young people. “The visibility of different communities and identities within books is so important. I struggled in school with bullying and coming to terms with my sexuality. I think if there had been books available for me at that time, to help me understand what I was thinking and feeling, then maybe I would not have gone through what I went through.

“Schools have a responsibility to educate pupils on the world around them, and to equip them with a knowledge of people from all walks of life, this includes representation of people from the LGBTQ+ community within literature or even school textbooks.”

She also touches upon the importance of prioritising reading and books:

“When times are tough, you may think a book is the last thing you need, but it could be the best thing to invest in right now, as it has the ability to take you away from the noise of the outside world.

During difficult financial times, people still have access to local libraries, they are a great way to get your hands on books for free.”

Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales said: “Our first book gifting initiatives took place in Ceredigion and Merthyr Tydfil during summer 2020 at the height of lockdown, to ensure children and young people had access to books when libraries and shops were closed, because reading is so important for our mental health and well-being.

We believe that everyone should have access to books, irrespective of their ability to afford them. We are very grateful to the Minister for Education and Welsh Language for sharing this vision and for funding Schools Love Reading to ensure every child in a state school in Wales has a book of their own. 

We would like to see book gifting to schools become a regular activity and look forward to continuing to work with Welsh Government and with partners to continue to make books available for all to enjoy.”


[1] Children and young people’s access to books and educational devices at home during the cost-of-living crisis | National Literacy Trust

Over half a million free books and book tokens distributed to children in Wales

Celebrating five years of learning Welsh with Amdani

The National Centre for Learning Welsh and the Books Council of Wales are marking a milestone this year as they celebrate five years of the popular Amdani series of Welsh books for learners. During 2023 every title in the series will be made available as an audiobook for the first time.

There are 40 books in the series, from a variety of Welsh publishers, commissioned through Books Council of Wales grant funding.

The books are graded at four levels for learners – Entry, Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced, and the aim is to provide learners with opportunities to enjoy reading about a range of subjects. The series is the result of a successful partnership between the National Centre for Learning Welsh and the Books Council of Wales.

The series is celebrated through the Amdani Festival, which will be held virtually this year between 27 February and 3 March, providing learners with opportunities to enjoy activities and events that are linked to reading in Welsh.

Amdani titles include:


Entry Level: Wynne Evans – O Gaerfyrddin i Go Compare by Elin Meek (Atebol)
A biography of the singer and presenter Wynne Evans. A very personal and honest history of Wynne and his family, his experiences as a famous tenor, and his journey to learn Welsh as an adult.

Foundation Level: Yn ei Gwsg
by Bethan Gwanas (Atebol)
A lively novel about a mystery hit-and-run car crash. Dafydd, who walks in his sleep, wakes up covered in blood … but who’s to blame?

Intermediate Level: 20 o Arwyr Cymru by J. Richard Williams (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
A book celebrating 20 Welsh heroes and their notable contribution. Discover the stories of Betsi Cadwaladr, Ray Gravell, Kate Roberts and others.

Advanced Level: Cawl a Straeon Eraill (Y Lolfa)
A series of short stories by well-known authors, including Sarah Reynolds, Mihangel Morgan and Lleucu Roberts.

Arwel Jones, Head of Publishing Development at the Books Council
, said: “Five years ago there were no books for learners that were designed to match the national learning standards. In collaboration with the National Centre, the Books Council decided to commission a range of 20 books for that purpose, and the Amdani series was launched. By now, publishers in Wales are regularly producing books for the series, and there are 40 titles available. Thanks to the New Audiences Grant funding from Creative Wales, we have been able to support the production of an audiobook for every title in the series, so that you can soon enjoy these stories through your headphones as well as on paper.”

Helen Prosser, Director of Teaching and Learning at the National Centre for Learning Welsh, said: “Creating opportunities for our learners to enjoy using their Welsh outside the classroom is a crucial part of our work at the Centre, and the Amdani series is extremely popular.

“The wide selection of entertaining books means that there will be a book for you to enjoy, whether you are just starting to learn, or are a confident speaker.

“The audiobooks will enable our learners to gain confidence by hearing the language, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Books Council to introduce even more titles to the series.”

Titles in the Amdani series are available from bookshops or to borrow from your local library. Digital formats, such as e-books and audiobooks, are available to buy from Ffolio.cymru with new audiobook titles to be added throughout the year. Shoppers are able to choose a bookshop to benefit from their purchase from Ffolio.


Want to read more in 2023?

Want to read more in 2023, but not really sure where to start?

Here are a few ideas and suggestions that might help


Reading Recommendations

Not sure what to read? Looking for recommendations? Try podcasts that discuss books. The Storytellers’s Podcast with Gary Raymond, talks to leading writers about their relationships with the art of storytelling, Graffeg’s Meet The Author podcast, features conversations with a range of their authors and illustrators, while Seren’s Poetry Podcast interviews leading poets and shares recordings of their work.

Or why not call by your local bookshop? Booksellers have a wealth of knowledge. From books by new authors just arrived on the shelves to old favourites by well-known authors, shop staff can advise you. Several shops also host events and readings that will no doubt fuel the desire to start reading a new book. Pop in!


Reading together

Reading doesn’t have to be something you do alone. Being a member of a Book Club is an opportunity to discuss specific books in detail, to share tips and exchange ideas – and a chance to put the world to rights over a cup or pint!

Cardiff Feminist Book Club and Swansea Feminist Book Club meet monthly, while book clubs also meet in libraries across Wales. No book club near you? Why not set one up? A chance to read, discuss books and socialise – what better?


Join your Local Library

Want to read something completely different but don’t want to buy the book until you’re absolutely sure you’ll enjoy it? Join your local library!  Not only can you borrow an amazing variety of books, both old and new, in Welsh and English, you can also take advantage of a host of other services. Borrow Box is an app for library members for lending e-books and audiobooks in both languages, while Libby gives access to a wide range of magazines electronically, free of charge.


Use Ffolio

It’s so easy for us to be sucked in by our phone, tempting us to scroll endlessly and directionlessly. Why not download a book to your phone via ffolio.wales instead? Ffolio sells Welsh e-books in both Welsh and English, while also supporting your choice of bookseller at no extra cost to you. New books such as Luke Upton’s Rugby’s Greatest Mavericks, or Jasmine Donahaye’s Birdsplaining, are available at your fingertips while waiting for the bus or eating your lunch.


Your choice

Instead of reading the books everyone claims you should read, read the ones that you want to read, that entice you. And if you don’t enjoy them, don’t feel like you have to read to the end, to the very last page. Life’s too short! This may not be the book for you, or it may not be the time to read this particular title – so try another book. There’s more than enough for everyone on the shelf!




Football World Cup

The Little Welsh Football Fan

by Mark Williams

The little Welsh fan has a chance to see Wales play in a major tournament! A perfect story 3–5-year-old football fans!

Alun the Bear and the Football Match

by Morgan Tomos

Alun has the opportunity to train with the Wales football team.  But he can’t play very well so he decides to be a referee instead.  But what kind of a referee will Alun be?

First Sticker Book – Football

An entertaining, bilingual sticker book portraying an exciting story about Llewod Llandre in two important football games, and on a hard day on the training field.

Stupendous Sports: Fantastic Football

by Robin Bennett

Hilarious, but factual too, Fantastic Football is as much about the spirit of the beautiful game as the rules. From the origins of football, when matches went on for days, to today’s fasicinating facts and amazing stories. Plus, a spotlight on what makes the greatest players so great.

Welsh Football Colouring Book

by Anne Cakebread

A fun colouring book for all Welsh football fans – children and adults alike! Dynamic outlines of memorable images of 21 key moments in Wales’s recent footballing recent history to colour and bring to life.

Exploring the world

Albert Upside Down

by Ian Brown

Albert the pet tortoise has a problem: trying to reach a tasty treat, he has ended up on his shell, upside down and stuck! Can the other garden creatures overcome their rivalry, team up and help him get back on his feet?

The Quilt

by Valériane Leblond

A beautifully illustrated story about migration and homesickness. Around 1900, a family leaves Wales in search of a better life in the USA, where their homemade quilt proves a great comfort.

Fred and the Fantastic Tub-Tub

by Zeb Soanes 

Fred, a young girl, and her Grandpa travel to the island of Papa-Nupi to see, or rather hear, the mysterious Tub-Tub – a plant that flowers every 200 years and which ‘produces music so beautiful even the birds in the trees stop singing to hear it.’ But even if they can get there, can they manage to bring a recording back with them to prove what they’ve heard?

Libby and the Parisian Puzzle

by Jo Clarke 

Mystery-lover Libby is excited but nervous when sent to live with her aunt, while her mother is working abroad. Her aunt Agatha is headmistress of an extraordinary travelling school that moves from country to country. Libby joins it in Paris, when Agatha is arrested, accused of a daring jewel robbery. Can Libby and her new best friend Connie find the real thief and save her aunt?

My Name is River

by Emma Rea

When Dylan overhears his dad say that their farm has been sold to a global company, he decides he has to make them change their minds. In Brazil, things don’t go at all to plan. Only when Lucia, a street child armed with a puppy and a thesaurus, saves his life, do they start to uncover the shocking truth about what the company is up to, and Dylan’s home problems seem far away.

Exploring your Imagination


by Aidan Saunders

A graphic representation of the second branch of the Mabinogion – Branwen, daughter of Llŷr. The aim of the book is to present the Mabinogion tales to young people, and to retell these highly visual and emotional stories to today’s audience using art work originating from truly historical artefacts.

Find the Dragon!

by Huw Aaron

A colourful 32 page, A4 book for children and adults. Packed with lively double-page illustrations of amusing Welsh scenes, the task is to find the little dragon hiding in each scene, as well as many other bizarre objects and characters listed at the back of the book. Guaranteed to provide hours of fun for all the family!

The Knight Who Took All Day

by James Mayhew

A knight must do battle with a dragon is he is to win the hand of his beloved princess. But when a dragon finally comes along our hero realises he also needs to look his best if he is to impress, and that may take some time. And who knows what might happen as he takes his time to get ready? A delightful and thoughtful story about self-importance and vanity.

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith

by Loris Owen 

When puzzle-loving Kip Bramley receives a cryptic invitation, delivered by a beetle-shaped drone that appears to be breathing, he has no idea that his world is about to change forever. Very soon he finds himself at Quicksmiths College of Strange Energy, hunting for riddles set 400 years earlier by a mysterious genius. But this isn’t any ordinary treasure hunt.

The Picture That Made Time Fly

by Sheila Harries 

An original novel set in Cardiff National Museum following Megan and Rhys on a school trip which turns into a dangerous and challenging adventure, as they are taken back in time to the Victorian era in the capital city.