Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, will extend their free entry model permanently, after a successful trial period, to further their strategic aim to increase accessibility to children’s books in communities and schools across the UK.

The Centre removed the general admission fee in February to allow more people to visit the museum, access the items in their archive, get inspiration from authors and illustrators, and share stories with their friends and families. Following subsequent record visitor numbers, and in alignment with their overarching strategy to engage with children from all backgrounds in the UK in creativity and culture, they have announced that the free entry model will be permanent.   

Wendy Elliott, Interim CEO, said: “Our goal is to put stories at the heart of every childhood, no matter what background or place you grow up in, and in order to do that we need be as accessible as possible to as many children as possible. So, earlier this year, we made our building free entry for the first time in our 16-year history – and the effect has been amazing. We had over 7500 visitors in just seven days - which was even higher than pre-pandemic levels - and it was fantastic to see so many new visitors enjoying our galleries and events, from our region and further afield.”

The Seven Stories team works with communities across the UK to deliver group storytimes and activity sessions, baby groups, children’s workshops and school engagement activities. Recently the team worked in partnership with children’s centres across the North East to engage young children and families living in disadvantaged communities. The project supported early learning, readiness for school and childhood resilience – key factors in positive education and mental health outcomes for children and reduced isolation for both parents and children during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Charlotte Coles, Seven Stories’ Creative Associate who facilitated many of these sessions, said: “One participant said her baby hadn’t met any other babies before the sessions and now she felt so much more confident to go and meet other parents on her own. Another participant wasn’t reading at all before attending the sessions and now she says her and her partner keep coming home with new books to read with their daughter – she’s got her own bookshelf now!

“We’ve had record numbers of families through the door for our community baby groups in Byker too, with many attendees commenting that it’s the only group they’ve been able to find. The feedback from groups like this reinforces the importance of making sure spaces like this exist in the community, and in the museum building itself, without cost to participants.”  

Claire Riley, Chair of the Board at Seven Stories, added: “For many years we have delivered impactful and award-winning activities in and with specific disadvantaged local communities, and this will continue to develop, encompassing more places, more activities and more partnerships in the coming years. However, we also intend to permanently mirror this commitment to accessibility in our building too, and we’re thrilled to say that the free entry model is here to stay.”