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Education Worldwide

Interview with Majo de Saedeleer

Director of Stichting Lezen, Belgium



"Boekbaby`s", "Iedereen Leest" and "Leesplekken" – these are the titles of reading projects in Belgium, managed by the Stichting Lezen. The foundation, which is funded by the Ministry of Culture, collaborates with actors from public libraries, publishers, the media and culture and engages in reading promotion for children, youths and adults. Its director Majo de Saedeleer introduces the organisation’s strategy and talks about current projects and campaigns.

Are there any officially educational goals of reading promotion in your country?
All matters concerning reading promotion are given into the care of Stichting Lezen. The Ministry of Culture set out the mission of Stichting Lezen when it started (modelled after the Dutch Stichting Lezen). Recent policy stresses the attention for specific target groups: handicaped, young families, prisoners, low income groups, etc. Not only for reading of course but for all matters concerning participation in culture.

Is reading promotion mainly an element of native-language class or do you have any explicit classes for reading promotion?
Reading promotion is mainly a matter of language teaching in schools. With only limited attention for the issue in teacher training. But as you know, Stichting Lezen is funded by the Ministry of Culture (not Education) so our projects are not only working in schools. One of our oldest projects is the Children`s Jury, which is not run in schools but in close cooperation with the public libraries. In Boekbaby`s our first partner is in Welfare: the health centres for babies and toddlers. Our Reading Aloud Week is run in day-care centers.

Have you got any experience concerning the promotion of reading with children of low income families? Which kind of measures would you recommend?
A project has been running where teacher trainees go and read aloud in families from non European descent. But it is our general conviction that you should not stigmatize the children of low income classes with projects specifically designated for them. An example of our philosophy is the Fahrenheit 451 project run in technical and vocational schools. The population of these schools consists of more than 60% youngsters ( 15 years up) of non-European origin. We do not set up programs for migrant youngsters. We set up a project for the population of this type of schools, believing these young people have more in common with their peers in this specific (type of) education than with fellow non-Europeans in schools of a higher intellectual profile.

Would you please give a brief description (about 5 sentences) of the main focus of activities of your organization?
Stichting Lezen is the government`s point of contact for the promotion of reading. The association wants to promote and improve contexts that stimulate reading, therefore it organizes campaigns aimed at both children and adults. The association organizes and runs these events in close collaboration with stakeholders from public libraries, education, the publishing profession, the media and the broader cultural sector. Additionally we encourage research into reading and entertain international contacts.

Which measures of the promotion of reading addressed to pupils by organizations of your country do you consider especially effective?

We strongly believe in all of our campaigns. We try to map the diversity of attitudes towards reading. Where are the convinced readers you have to inspire with new titles and offer the opportunity to meet each other and discuss their reading experiences? (e.g. Kinderjury, Iedereen Leest) Where are the hesitating or reluctant readers you have to capture with media-oriented campaigns, votes? and presents? (e.g. The most beautiful children`s books of all times, Leesplekken,...) With whose help can we convince young parents that reading to their children offers them a headstart in life and in their emotional relationship?
So far we have at least not found the Miracle Project. Every group requires its own approach. And the reading promoters have to find the right partners..

Interview: Andrea Steinbrecher, Stiftung Lesen