“Lesespaß” Initiative
More Reading Pleasure

Only children who are introduced to books when they are young develop a personal interest in reading later on.
Only children who are introduced to books when they are young develop a personal interest in reading later on. | Photo: joingate © 123RF

The “Lesespaß” Initiative in Gütersloh aims to motivate children and young people to read and to build their reading skills. The Goethe-Institut is involved as a partner with innovative projects.

While it is true that children and young people read countless messages on Facebook each day and send off chat messages every minute, only very few read complex stories in books. Yet reading not only inspires the imagination, it also helps to develop important cognitive skills. Reading stories aloud early on is particularly important here as only children who are introduced to books when they are young develop a personal interest in reading later on. Yet parents in only one out of two households read to their children regularly.

More reading pleasure

Since August 2010, the Lesespaß Initiative by Bertelmann SE & Co. KGaA in conjunction with the Stiftung Lesen (Reading Foundation) and the Goethe-Institut has been involved in arousing the interest of more children and young people in Gütersloh in reading and building their reading skills. Parents and kindergarten and primary school teachers are also involved in the project – after all, they have the greatest influence on children’s reading habits. Special attention is paid to families that read aloud rarely, if at all. Some 25 projects to encourage reading have taken place in the last two years and were received with great interest by children and young people in Gütersloh. They were given the chance to get involved in the stories in interactive reading sessions, write their own first texts in a writing workshop with a fantasy writer and a sports reporter or watch film adaptations of popular children’s books. The initiators cooperate closely in all the projects with schools, day care facilities for children, the city library, leisure facilities, cultural associations and the city’s decision-makers.

“Promoting reading is interdisciplinary,” says Tuğba Talas, Desk Officer for the project at the Goethe-Institut’s Language Department. “Promoting language learning and reading go hand in hand. The Goethe-Institut brings in its decades of experience of language teaching.” It is important to link the project with young people’s interests,” Talas believes. That is what the Goethe-Institut did in its music workshop “Rumpelstiltskin in Hip-Hop Fever”, in which young people worked with a professional rapper to write their own texts and present them to an audience.

Books in the social environment

The Bücher für alle (Books for All) project is targeted at parents and children with foreign roots. “It is particularly important to meet this target group in their own environment,” comments Tuğba Talas, “in places where parents trust that their children will be well looked after.” Libraries have been set up in two mosques and a church. “The associations puts on reading and craft sessions every week now, and as a result, parents and children are more interested in books.” It is the declared objective of the initiative for that to remain the case even after the end of the Lesespaß project. “We want to achieve sustainability,” says Tuğba Talas. That means “launching projects and generating ideas that schools, day-care centres, parents and associations take up and can then continue on their own.”

Lesespaß is a pilot project and is limited to Gütersloh. It is envisaged that the next stage will be to transfer the experience of the initative to other cities and municipalities. “What we have here is the unique opportunity to link unusual and conventional projects to promote reading on a large scale,” says Tuğba Talas.” Like readings in unusual places, for example a story about the fire service at the fire station. The children were sitting between the fire engines while a fire fighter read the story. “The children asked lots of questions and loved the real-life setting,” Talas recalls.

The Goethe-Institut’s in-service training course Sprache wachsen lassen has looked at German as a second language in kindergartens and schools. Kindergarten and primary school teachers were given ideas for promoting the language acquisition and bilingualism of many children using language games, children’s literature, and music and art projects.

First survey results

A survey of some 300 parents in Gütersloh in summer 2012 showed that a considerably higher proportion of parents had picked up a book themselves than in the previous year – and this was particularly the case among parents with a poor educational background or an immigration background. Some 75 per cent of the children between 10 and 14 years of age enjoy reading, according to their parents. In 2010, the figure was just 60 per cent. “The evaluation of the project has also shown that the media are important,” says Tuğba Talas. That is why the initiative, now in its third project year, is making greater use of media such as radio, the Internet and online television. “That enables us to reach families that do not make a habit of reading because the media do play a central role in their everyday lives.”

The Goethe-Institut launched its LesenHören (ReadingHearing) audio play competition as part of the Lesespaß initiative in the autumn of 2013, inviting children and young people up to the age of 14 to produce their own audio plays. This requires them to apply a wide range of linguistic skills. The children have to read, write a script and translate the literary text into dialogues. But how do you turn the original text into to an audio play manuscript? How do the stories have to be structured? How can music and sound be used to good effect? The youngsters learn all these things in workshops accompanying the competition.