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Books unite people

Reading initiative Steiermark, Austria


© Reading initiative Steiermark

„Exciting rather than educating!“ -this is the motto behind the „Leseoffensive Steiermark“, a reading initiative that was launched in autumn 2008, supported by the education department of the regional government of Steiermark in Austria. It intends to motivate children to read, promote a joy of books and engage parents in reading aloud and telling stories. Particularly with parents and educators alike, an awareness of the high significance of early reading for education is thus to be inspired. Libraries and reading initiatives cooperate to inspire a joy of reading in the region’s citizens of all age groups, and to familiarise them with regional library services. Public libraries in the Steiermark region distribute selected first reading books as well as additional resources for young readers, and information brochures for parents. On the second birthday, a reading festival is organised at the library where children receive a book-game. And throughout the annual “colourful reading weeks“ public readings, plays, concerts, workshops etc. are organised in the libaries in the Steiermark region.

The birthday book action
All the 10,000 children living in the Steiermark region celebrating their second birthday within a given year receive a copy of the picture book, “Was gehört wozu?“ – “Which belongs to what”. Public libraries in the Steiermark region host great reading festivals for very young readers within the birthday action programme. Children are invited to these festivals by the libraries and communities. The birthday book intends to inspire parents and children to discover the fascination of reading at an early stage in life.
The reading initiative was kick-started with a big birthday party on November 8, 2008. More than 200 children went to the children’s library LABUKA at the town library of Graz Ost. Children’s book author Friedl Hofbauer entertained the guests with finger and knee rider games as well as counting rhymes. Moreover, the biggest mountain of picture books ever to be built in the region of Steiermark was created!

A reading yardstick for each child!
When sending out the invitations to children for the second birthday party in the region’s libraries, each child also receives carefully selected, colourful, suitable reading educational tips. The „reading yardstick“ allows children and parents to discover how tall the children have grown. At the back, parents can read information concerning the importance of storytelling and reading aloud.
Within a year, the Steiermark libraries distribute ca. 5.000 books and reading yardsticks to two-year olds. The children are also given funny ex-libris-stamps so they can personalise their very first books and older children can obtain a yardstick from their library.

The first reading initiative
The libraries distribute a first reading book to young readers in the region “The pirate dog and other animal stories“, a sheet of stickers and a reading diary, where the children can jot down titles and authors of the books they have read, as well as recording an estimation of the reading value and they can also draw in this reading diary. Parents can obtain a copy of the brochure “Escorting children in reading“ providing useful information on learning to read and tips and suggestions for reading motivation as well as useful weblinks.

The reading initiative website provides services for libraries as well as the general public. Apart from offering information on age-related reading promotion and reading suggestions, it hosts a region-wide calendar of events and a forum of ideas for reading projects. Librarians can enter their own events into the calendar and render concepts of successful actions accessible. All public libraries in the Steiermark region have been granted their own access to the website. Libraries, educators and parents can exchange their own experiences in the forum of topics.

The “colourful reading weeks“
The reading initiative supports libraries in the region in planning their projects and in their co-operation, in order to increase its visibility in public awareness. Co-operation and exchange opportunities among libraries and other institutions engaged in the promotion of reading are funded. Advertising materials such as the posters stating that “books unite people“ are available.
The first “colourful reading weeks“ that were held from April 14 until May 10, 2009 turned into a festival with a series of events and readings by well-known authors as well as reading and drama projects held in the libraries and schools. The colourful weeks were launched with a music and literature project (“striking a chord“), which had already been successfully conducted in Hamburg More than 80 events followed, hosting more than 5000 guests. Not least because of this great success, the colourful reading weeks will be re-launched in spring 2010, from April 14th until May 5th.

Project partners
The education department of the state of Steiermark is the project commissioner that funds and monitors the reading initiative Steiermark – the “Books unite people” project is part of the initiative “Values unite people”.
The reading centre Steiermark is the project manager of the reading initiative, it is the operative agency of the Steiermark region commissioned to support all libraries in the region in the development of library services both in organisational and educational terms.
Public and school libraries as well as libraries in kindergartens and other educational institutions in the Steiermark region (nearly 600 in all) are the partnering institutions for all reading educational projects (picture book – birthday action, reading yardstick, reading festival,…).
The agency SCHEUCHER SCHWALL . PARTNER Werbeagentur GmbH has designed the homepage, the yardstick and all of the advertising material and it supports the coordination and design of diverse reading actions.
The media partner Antenne Steiermark enables the reading initiative to broadcast on the radio.
Students from the Journalism and Public Relations course have photographed creative reading motifs for the reading initiative, and the best 22 photographs were presented in an exhibition.
The culture agency of the Steiermark region has advised this applied university photography project, and it prepared the exhibition in November 2009.
Students from the regional vocational training college Fürstenfeld will build three audio chairs by spring 2010, equipped with a CD player and an audio play each: these chairs will be sent out on their journey across the region.

Verena Gangl
Institut für Bibliotheksorganisation, Bibliotheksentwicklung und Lesepädagogik
Campus FH Joanneum
Eggenberger Allee 15a
A – 8020 Graz
E-Mail: v.gangl@lesezentrum.at
Internet: See also: Promoting Reading in Austria