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Expert workshop: The future of reading


Expert workshop of the German reading foundation Stifung Lesen in Berlin on 5 and 6 June 2012.

This year’s expert workshop of the Stiftung Lesen which took place in Berlin on 5 and 6 June 2012 focused on the issue of the future of reading.

What does ‘reading’ mean today? Which effects do digitisation and demographic change have on the media and reading socialisation of children and adolescents, and thus also on reading promotion?

These were the issues debated during the expert workshop on ‘the future of reading’ in Berlin, hosted by the Stiftung Lesen with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). More than fifty experts from various fields, such as media and communication research, social research, education, psychology, demography, trend and marketing research, took part in the workshop, as well as experts from a range of diverse educational institutions.

The most important finding: People will read in the future too, but in a different way than they did twenty years ago. “The old cultural technique of reading will survive but it will be applied differently. In everyday life, reading on paper will disappear”, says Hamburg trend researcher Prof. Dr. Peter Wippermann.

With the increase in new reading media it is necessary to enlarge the concept of reading, according to the experts. “At present, we read more than ever before”, says Dr. Simone C. Ehmig, head of the Institute for Research on Reading and Media of Stiftung Lesen. “But many things are not perceived as reading, as for example the activities in social networks.”

For this reason, the workshop participants argued that digital media should not be seen as competitors of or in contradiction to print media. Instead, it would be advisable to recognize and to make use of the potentials of all reading media. In order to reach as many target groups as possible, not only books and print media should be taken into account regarding reading research and reading promotion, but increasingly also digital reading media like e-books and apps.

A diversification of methods and media could give fresh impetus to reading promotion. First studies have shown, for example, that e-readers can improve the image of reading for young people who do not like turning to a book.

Since there are roughly 7.5 million people in Germany considered to be functionally illiterate, the issue of providing knowledge of literature is for many experts of only secondary importance. “Literacy is the key qualification par excellence and a crucial prerequisite for participation in society in various ways. Functionality should also be considered as a factor in reading promotion”, says Prof. Dr. Cordula Artelt who teaches empirical education research at the University Bamberg and is a member of the PISA Consortium.

Demographic change and media platforms that replace each other at ever shorter intervals do also have influence on reading promotion. Intergenerational approaches, for instance cooperations between schools and nursing homes, will play a major role in future. To ensure the success of an advanced reading promotion it is not only important to integrate different media but also to improve the networking of all institutions operating in this sector. Dr. Jörg F. Maas, chief executive of Stiftung Lesen encouraged the participants at the end of the workshop, saying: “All social groups and actors involved in the fields of education and reading promotion have to cooperate more closely than before and to adapt their programmes to different target groups. Only in this way we can create new points of access to reading for all age groups and sections of the population in the context of pluralisation of media and society and turn Germany into a ‘nation of readers’.”

The papers presented at the workshop will be published and can be ordered probably from November 2012 via www.derleseladen.de.



Expert workshop: The ..