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Education Worldwide

Books Build Bridges


The project Bücher schlagen Brücken (Books build bridges) brings young and elderly people in the German federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia together. Books serve as a tool to connect young and old, providing an opportunity to spend time together and to talk with each other.

By means of intensive training and a practical guideline for reading aloud, 8th to 10th grade students (roughly around the age of 14 and 16 in Germany) are prepared for reading in homes for senior citizen. A package with twenty specially selected books is provided by project initiator Stiftung Lesen to support the reading sessions. The package includes short stories, songs, fairytales, non-fiction books about the past, poems – all with a focus on intergenerational topics. The seniors and the student select together what will be read in an upcoming session.

Usually a group of up to ten sit in a semicircle, and the student reads aloud to the seniors. Normally, reading aloud does not last longer than ten minutes. After reading, the student and the seniors start talking about the topic and share related experiences.

Senior homes, schools, seniors or even pupils themselves (via their teachers) can initiate a project in their home community. The goal would then be to arrange for two reading sessions per month for each venue.

The project started as a pilot in the city of Bielefeld in 2009 and proved to be successful. With the support of the Ministry for Health, Emancipation, Care and the Elderly in North-Rhine Westphalia, the project now involves eleven regions and communities.