Part 2 : literacy, importance of reading aloud and reading promotion
While my first two days in Bologna were focused on illustrators, either by coincidence, or by the design of the fair’s programme, the second part of my visit was articulated around the literacy and reading promotion.
As suggested by its title, «European literacy network, best practices in reading», the first conference on this topic series that I attended, was focused on Europe and a recent drop in literacy and reading rates. During the last 10 years, not much has been done in this area. Currently, one in five 15-year-olds in Europe and nearly 55 million adults lack basic literacy skills. It limits their opportunities in life as digital media expand and there is an increasing need for life-long learning.
In the crowded room, more than half of the audience were librarians and the second most represented group were teachers.
Christine Garbe presented some of the results of her team’s research. According to her presentation, the preconditions for successful policy on literacy are:
There are still gaps in achieving full literacy in Europe which are linked to socio-economic factors, migration, gender and digital.
The key point is that children should have contact with books and the written word before starting school. To ensure this contact, families need to be literate. But 2011 PIRLS data shows average number of parents who “like” reading is 35.3%, 12% of children belong to families with no or few children books and 42% of children have parents who do not read often to them.
Good examples of national initiatives included a “new-born free pack” with information about the importance of and instructions on interactions with a baby for parents, and involvement of numerous families in reading communities. The role of fathers in this early education was particularly stressed. They are perceived, especially by boys, as “cool”, so all that they do is worth imitating. Then, there is much to do at the school level to foster reading culture and reading for pleasure. Again, the features of successful programmes were given. Some useful resources can be found on www.eli-net.eu.
Then, the session focused on Italy and initiatives elaborated to close the gaps.
I popped into the Authors Café to learn more about the importance of reading aloud. It should start very early (at 9 months) to develop a good relationship, confidence and language structure.
In contrast to reading with parents, public readings (for example in libraries, or bookshops),enable a child to develop differentiation between an intimate relationship with his/her parents and social networking.
The diverse panel included a childrens’ author, a psychiatrist, a bookseller and a pediatrician.
I finished the day by a conference presenting solutions to fill the gap between the countries where the publishing industry is flourishing and those where the local languages are too numerous, or too small and communities are thirsty for books.
The panelists of “the Book desert” were talking about what authors, illustrators and publishers do to expand access to books in these underserved languages. This is the ground for charities which work with local partners and propose simple and cheap solutions.
For example, in Rwanda, 378 million children cannot currently read, or even learn to read. There is also a lack of public libraries, so no choice of books. Save the Children works there on a project to change this reality. Children are involved in the process, say what they want to read, choose the books, evaluate them.
The Global Book Alliance (GBA) is a joint initiative of Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is currently working on launching the Global Digital Library in April.
There is also Bookshare, an online library established as a social enterprise under the Marrakesh Treaty (www.bookshare.org) to give access to books to children with visual and print disabilities.
It was a shame that the local partners were missing. I would have loved to hear from the authors and publishers involved in these projects.
«European literacy network, best practices in reading»
“The Book Desert – How can we close the children’s book gap in developing countries?”
The last conference that I attended was “The 1st European Independent Children’s Bookstores Conference” opened by Michiel Kolman, IPA President.
The panelists spoke about the importance of the small, community bookstores which constitute a natural link between the publishers and the readers. They know exactly the preferences and needs of their customers. They also should be able to propose suitable, interesting books. To arrive at school with a previous experience of books and reading, children should be exposed to them, be able to pick up the books by themselves. So, the choice is very important. There can simply be a color, or shape that attracts them on the first glance and not the story.
The booksellers make the connection between the children and books available on the market. Some examples of commercial successes were given when the whole buzz around it started from a booksellers’ pick.
The booksellers report that, currently, parents and teachers are more worried by children’s ability to concentrate than by their reading abilities.
I found the new visual identity of the fair great and it is even more funky onsite.
The venue is pleasant, well designed – there is an abundance of daylight and you can also always go outside the halls and take a deep breath of fresh air.
The self-service food stands are perfect for a quick break and the food is excellent.
I was truly impressed by the stand of the guest of honor – China. Immense! (so impressed that I did not even think to take photos so you could get a feel for it!) The number of publishers and titles were simply amazing with many already translated into foreign languages (mainly English and French).
All award-winning books and those that are in focus at the conference are available in the special bookstore in the main area connecting the Halls (and seemed to be doing great business!).
Practical tips and warnings for first-timers:
Next year’s Bologna Children Book Fair will be from 1- 4 April 2019 and its guest of honour will be Switzerland, its children’s books and great illustrators.
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