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On 23rd May 2019 we successfully raised £1,580 with 15 supporters in 48 days

Let’s bring adventure to 46 10-11 year olds from across the UK, feeding their imaginations and fuelling independent reading and writing.

by Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation in London, England, United Kingdom

What is the HMS Adventure? 

Do you remember the excitement of sleeping away from home as a child? We do! We are inviting 46 young people from across the UK to join the HMS Adventure for a weekend of sea-faring themed adventures.

We use adventure to provide an inspirational environment for young people to improve their independent reading and writing, and in turn their literacy skills. Participants will take part in a day of creative writing workshops before spending an unforgettable night on board the HMS Belfast, moored on the River Thames.

Why are we doing this?

In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 5 young people leave primary school with a reading age lower than expected. In fact, 5% of these 11-year-old pupils do not have a reading age higher than a 7-year-old. 

That doesn't sound great... what does it really mean?

Lack of literacy skills is a barrier to learning, not just in English, but in subjects across the curriculum. If children do not have sufficient reading skills before leaving primary school, the gap between those with a firm grasp of literacy and those without widens rapidly.

Reading and writing are not only important for the technical skill, but for the softer skills it develops. As well as improved academic attainment, young readers are more likely to have higher levels of empathy, be able to develop mature relationships and use reading to help make sense of the world. In fact, children who are most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than children who are the least engaged.

Okay, so how are we improving literacy?

Reading and writing for pleasure are two of the most beneficial activities in increasing literacy skills. Reading is more important for a child’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education, and more important for their future than their socio-economic background.

But for the young people lacking these skills, how do we interest them in reading? How do we give them the confidence to believe they are writers? We turn it into an adventure of course!

What is the HMS Adventure? Who will the crew be?  

Five groups of young people from primary schools across the country, each with 40%+ pupil premium students, will be selected to travel to London to join the crew of the HMS Adventure. That’s 46 young people, plus their teachers, to help us take reading and writing out of the classroom and turn it into an adventure.

Teachers will identify pupils for whom they believe participating will have the greatest impact. They know their students best.

Upon arrival in the notorious Big Smoke, each shipmate will participate in a selection of creative writing activities, themed around different aspects of sea-faring history before reporting to the Captain of the HMS Belfast at 6pm. Here, they will secure their bunks in the mess decks, and report for duty.

The crew will experience what life was like living onboard a warship, explore the Flag Deck and Captain’s Bridge, learn semaphore and the roles of the signallers, before looking out at the London skyline at night. After all, it is the same Tower Bridge that sailors from the 1800s would have sailed under.

After breakfast the next day, the crew will make themselves shipshape before their final task, a learning session to discover the stories of the individual men who lived and work onboard. After donning their civvies, each shipmate will be tasked with writing a short story featuring the lives of one of the men we’ve learned about. The most creative will be shared in a special newsletter from the Foundation.

Why are we the ones organising this? 

We are a small charity on a mission to promote literacy and support writers, while advancing adventure writing as a genre. We have worked with young people in the classroom and helped writers as young as 12 to have their short adventure stories published. Adventure is our bag. And we are the only people using it in a unique way to improve literacy.

Why should you get involved? 

Do you remember the feeling of the first book you couldn’t put down? Did it make you pick up another book of the same kind, and continue your reading journey? Do you still have a copy on your bookshelves today? 

We want to inspire these 10-11 year olds to go away and do their own independent reading, to find out what that book is for them, and to try their hand at writing their own adventure. 

How will the money raised be spent? 

Once upon a time, a sailor from Hull would have spent a whole week walking to London to seek a position to make a living, or maybe their fortune. These days, we are lucky to be able to make the same journey in under 3 hours by train. All funds raised will go directly towards the young crew, covering their travel to London, subsistence and accommodation for the weekend and to help our workshop leaders deliver the most adventurous, memorable activities.

We have already secured funding to cover the administration to organise the weekend, so all money raised will directly support the young people taking part. As readers and adventurers yourself, we’d like as many of you to join us in taking these young people on their own adventure. 

Thank you for your support - and keep an eye out for the crew sharing their experience in July!

To show our thanks, we have some amazing perks for you. You will receive a BIG thank you from us, and we’ll even add your name to the website as a supporter of the project. There are some very exciting additional rewards too, which you can see in the panel on the right.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£10 or more

£10 Reward

A huge thank you from WNSF (via email) and we will add your name to our website as a supporter of the project.

£25 or more

£25 Reward

As well as receiving a huge thank you and recognition on our website, we will make you an honorary Friend of the Foundation for the next year. You will receive a quarterly behind-the-scenes newsletter from the Foundation, featuring all the exciting projects we are working on, spotlights from writers we work with, and ways to get involved. Tell us your details and you will also receive a personal shout out on twitter or Facebook.

£50 or more

£50 Reward

As well as receiving all the perks we’ve already mentioned, we will send you a thank you from the ‘crew’ of the HMS Adventure and a Foundation branded tote bag. The more you use the bag, the more you will help us spread the word about improving literacy through adventure writing.

£100 or more

£100 Reward

You will receive a copy of Wilbur Smith's next novel Ghost Fire in August, one month before it is even published! This is one for the Wilbur Smith fans who just can't wait. As above, you will also become an honorary Friend of the Foundation for the next year, we will send a tote bag, and, additionally, a very special bookmark naming you as one of the most important supporters of the future of adventure writing.

£500 or more

0 of 15 claimed

£500 Reward

A named thank you, in print (!!), in Wilbur Smith’s next book, Ghost Fire - a permanent mark of your support inspiring young people through adventure writing for you and the world to see. You will receive your copy a month before its September publication, along with two tickets to attend the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize awards ceremony, an invitation-only celebration at Stationers' Hall in London, on 12th September 2019.

£1,000 or more

0 of 1 claimed

£1000 Reward

In addition to the above, you will be able to nominate a secondary school of your choice (in Great Britain) to play host to judge and past winner of the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, writer extraordinaire Abir Mukherjee for a talk facilitated by the Foundation. We will make you an honorary Friend of the Foundation for the next year and you will receive four tickets to the 2019 Adventure Writing Prize on 12th September 2019.

£1,000 or more

0 of 1 claimed

£1000 Reward

Nominate a primary school (in Great Britain) to help launch the new Courtney family children's books, aimed at 8-11 year olds and co-authored by Christopher Wakling. Chris will visit your chosen school and host a workshop facilitated by the Foundation. In addition to the above, we will make you an honorary Friend of the Foundation for the next year and you will receive four tickets to the 2019 Adventure Writing Prize on 12th September.

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