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Education Worldwide

Interview with Aad Meinderts

Managing Director of the Stichting Lezen of the Netherlands



The Dutch Reading Foundation aims to foster a "strong reading culture" and it accordingly endorses the concept of a continuous reading pathway. Hence, it organises and supports (educational) activities for children and youths of all age groups (0 to 18 years). Aad Meinderts, director of the foundation, talks about the objectives and particularly successful projects and initiatives, such as the national reading competition, with more than 85,000 participant children each year.

Are there any official educational goals for reading promotion in your country?
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has formulated attainment targets and finishing levels for language, reading and literature education for both primary education and secondary education. For example, the attainment targets formulated for reading in primary education is as follows: ‘pupils will enjoy reading and writing stories, poems and informative texts intended for them. However, these attainment targets are so general that the Dutch reading foundation (Stichting Lezen) felt that it was necessary to provide a broader view on possibilities in relation to the specific approach taken to target attainment in the field of reading promotion and literature education. The Dutch reading foundation has based its policy on the concept of a ‘continuous reading pathway’: children and young people aged from 0 - 18 will encounter reading promotion and literature education on a structural basis. The aim is to arrange (educational) activities that will contribute to an enjoyment of reading and literary competence, the targets for reading promotion and literature education, for children and young people of every age.

Is reading promotion primarily an element of native-language classes or do you have any explicit classes for reading promotion?
Reading promotion primarily forms a part of native-language education. The Dutch reading foundation recently did a study on the state of affairs in relation to reading promotion at primary school teacher training colleges (PABOs) and regional training centres (ROCs) . The study showed that much of the compulsory curriculum, including the reading list, has disappeared. It was also found that student teachers are not able to assess the quality of children’s books.

Do you have any experience with the promotion of reading with children from low income families? Which kind of measures would you recommend?
There are no structural projects for children from families with low incomes. However, there are projects that focus on instructional methods in which children from a low-income background are over-represented. Examples of these projects are : Boekenpret, the Voorleesvogel for children from 0 – 12 and the Bazar for young people from 12 – 15.

Could you briefly describe the main focus of the work that your organisation does?
The Dutch reading foundation is the national knowledge centre for reading promotion and literature education and supports projects in these areas financially and in relation to content. The Dutch reading foundation is striving to achieve a strong reading culture under the motto ‘read and let read’ and focuses primarily on children and young aged from 0 – 18.

The continuous reading pathway forms the starting point: at each stage of their lives, it is important that children and young people come into contact with the wealth of stories and poetry that exist and that they do this continuously, at home, in childcare situations and through education and (out-of-school) projects.

Which measures that organisations in your country have taken to promote reading by pupils do you feel are particularly effective?
The national reading aloud days (Nationale Voorleesdagen) and the national reading aloud competition (Nationale Voorleeswedstrijd) are very successful projects in terms of reach. Each year, more than 85,000 children take part in the national reading aloud competition.

Effectiveness studies are very difficult and this is one of the reasons why they are not often available. The Boekenpret project was studied and evaluated recently. This study shows that parents are improving their own reading proficiency and that of their children, reading habits are developing and children are finding it easier to concentrate. It was also found that the reading proficiency of children taking part in the Boekenpret project develops more quickly than the reading proficiency of children from the same school who did not take part in the project.

Another effect study, the ‘Bazar case study’, looks at the effect achieved by the Bazar reading promotion project. This study shows that it is possible to achieve a demonstrable improvement in reading attitude within the short period of time required for a certain Bazar module..

Interview: Andrea Steinbrecher, Stiftung Lesen

See also: Promoting Reading in the Netherlands