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Education Worldwide

Interview with Gerhard Falschlehner

Managing director of the Austrian book club


Gerhard Falschlehner

The Austrian book club is a socially active, non-profit, non-partisan network for promoting reading and reading education as well as a publishing house for issuing and disseminating youth media and reading promotion products. Gerhard Falschlehner reports about practice materials the book club has prepared for primary and secondary school education, and talks about “knowledge suitcases” packed with prized non-fiction children and youth books, which provide an incentive for fact-based reading in all school subjects.

Are there any official educational goals for the promotion of reading in your country?
In January 2009, the Austrian Ministry of School Education decided to implement educational standards at school grade levels four and eight, each of which includes the competence area of reading and dealing with texts and media. The Austrian youth book club is currently preparing practice materials for primary schools (first to fourth grade) as well as general secondary schools (fifth to eightth grade) which can assist in working continuously towards the achievement of the respective educational standards.

Is reading promotion mainly an element of native-language class or do you have any explicit classes for reading promotion?
Reading promotion is actually still mainly subject to German lessons, even though a decree has been issued by which “reading as a principle of instruction” is mandatory for all taught subjects. However, a number of efforts currently exist for inspiring reading in lessons in general, particularly as regards non-fiction, informative reading. This year, the ministry of science and the book club offer 70 knowledge suitcases for loan to all schools, each containing ten prized non-fiction child and youth books and accompanying instructional material focusing on different topics and different school subjects.

Do you have any experience concerning the promotion of reading with children from low income families? What kind of measures would you recommend?
In 2009, the book club collaborates in the organisation of two symposia, which focus on reading socialisation in the family, and which will mainly reflect upon the connection between socio-economic family status and literacy. As one concrete measure, the book club offers the magazine “mini-PHILIPP“ to pre-primary school children, which allows parents to assist their children in acquiring the skills that are pre-conditional to reading. The federal states of Lower Austria and Burgenland and some communities provide this magazine to all pre-primary school children free of charge.

Could you please briefly describe the main activities of your organisation?
  On the one hand, we determine ourselves as a socially active, non-profit, non-partisan network for reading promotion and reading education, on the other hand we are a publishing house for producing and disseminating youth media and reading promotion products. Our main areas of activity are:

We publish age-appropriate child and youth media in our own right or in co-operation with partners – in print or online formats (ca. 400 000 members aged 3 to 18 years).

We offer orientation, information and assistance in the dissemination of child and youth media in collaboration with significant German language publishers of child and youth books.

We offer reading mediators (e. g. teachers, parents, librarians) educational material and seminars as well as a comprehensive counselling service for promoting reading.

We support reading initiatives throughout Austria and together with our partners, we advertise reading and books.

What mesures in reading promotion conducted by organisations in your country do you consider to be particularly effective?
Following scientific evaluation, the „reading partners“ project turned out to be particularly effective See also: Promoting Reading in Austria