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“Nati per Leggere” - Born to read

Reading promotion in early childhood in Italy

2011-02-10

Logo Nati per Leggere

© Nati per Leggere

“Nati per Leggere” (Born to read) is a national programme to enhance the inclination to read in children from a very early age. “Nati per Leggere” (NpL), established in 2000, is promoted by the professional and cultural organizations of librarians and paediatricians: “Associazione Culturale Pediatri” (ACP), “Associazione Italiana Biblioteche” (AIB) and “Centro per la Salute del Bambino” (CSB). The “Associazione Culturale Pediatri” brings together 3000 Italian paediatricians on cultural grounds. The “Associazione Italiana Biblioteche” links more than 4000 librarians, libraries and information services. The “Centro per la Salute del Bambino” is a non profit organization engaged in training, research and solidarity towards childhood.

“Nati per Leggere” is a nationwide programme which aims at constantly involving the community in order to give children a better chance to develop, and grant them cognitive and emotional opportunities.
A child`s cognitive development is strongly stimulated by simple activities such as reading aloud and creating a familiar relationship with books and reading from a very early age. Besides, reading children a story is an activity involving both parents and children, because it ensures exclusive quality time together. Looking at the same pictures, imagining the same situations at the same time and sharing emotions, creates pleasant moments of very rewarding empathy for both.

The project is decentrally organized, based on the establishment of a network which aims at becoming ever more widespread in order to reach the greatest possible number of families with children under 6 years of age.
The network includes librarians, paediatricians, teachers and associations willing to put their energy into the project. At a local level a commitment is undertaken to ensure the project with the greatest flexibility and adaptation to the different situations.

A national committee, composed of 5 librarians and 5 paediatricians, takes care of aligning local actions to the inspiring principles of the program, looking after public relations and communications at a national level, especially as regards editing the project web pages (www.natiperleggere.it), the printed media of the promoting associations (AIB Notizie and Quaderni ACP), the publication of informative and promotional material, managing the mailing list npl-bib@aib.it which links about 3000 people intererested in the project. The list, to which not only professionals subscribe, has become a kind of self-help tool for operators and parents willing to know more about which books to read, how and when to begin to read with children.

Training of the local project promoters is one of NpL’s most important tasks. Training is essential to create a common language among people from different professional and cultural backgrounds, first of all librarians and paediatricians but also social and health workers, teachers and other people in the local community who will be involved in locally setting up and coordinating a network of interventions of the individual services. In order to guarantee maximum standards among national and local operators, their training, common objectives and operating procedures should preferably be shared and coordinated.

Caring for and producing bibliographical tools to guide readers regarding new publications is another important activity. Since 2001, three “Nati per Leggere” bibliographies “Nati per leggere: una guida per genitori e futuri lettori” (Born to read: a guide for parents and future readers) have been published.
“Nati per Leggere” has stimulated great activities in selecting and suggesting the best books for children under 6 both at a national and local level. This activity has also been oriented towards increasing and updating the library collections for children, kindling an interest in many libraries and in public opinion for the need of public cultural services for children.
Information about the bibliographies compiled by libraries, single or networked, is accessible at www.natiperleggere.it.

The relationship with booksellers and publishers is very important for “Nati per Leggere”. Publishers recognize NpL and allow discounts on books that are used for the project.
The 4th edition of a catalogue of good books at a special price exclusively for NpL local projects has been released. Publishers have been involved in producing picture books in special editions at a very low price to support the local projects which aim at giving them to children.
The NpL titles available are described at www.natiperleggere.it.
NpL also wish to activate a permanent monitoring of children`s books and their readers` appreciation, through the work of public libraries, where books and readers meet free of any commercial interest. From this point of view the bibliographical control realised by the bibliographic guidance and selection should influence the availability of the suggested books, so that catalogues are better oriented to readers` needs and to offering quality.
Bookshops are the other essential partner, because they often guarantee a presence where libraries fail and because they can guarantee a broader scope of publications than single publishers, this aspect is very important for both the organized NpL promoters and for the parents who want to buy books themselves. At www.natiperleggere.it, bookshop addresses are updated which especially care for children`s literature. NpL has also established partnerships with a bookseller chain (Feltrinelli) and an online bookshop (LinOn.it).

The NpL national prize
The NpL national prize, which has been awarded twice so far, addresses publishers and local promoters of the project.
The aim of the prize, funded by Piedmont Region, the town of Turin, the foundation for books, music and culture and of course by the NpL National Committee, is to stimulate a higher quality production of books for smaller children (0-3 years old) and to reward the activities of the many local projects that have little economic support. Both times (2010, 2011) the prize was awarded by the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.

Operative methodology
The first commitment of the national committee has been to involve the most sensitive organizations, starting from the regional links of the promoting associations.
The NpL strategy to reach its goal is to set up local operative structures, supported by public libraries and paediatricians, which can get involved in a methodological and widespread activity to inspire all the family, education and health environments to perceive reading as a cultural improvement and social benefit factor for children and indirectly for all the adults involved.

The family paediatrician has a strategic and positive role, as he/she reaches out to children from all social groups and parents fully confide in him/her. The paediatrician has an early, unique and regular contact with the majority of the newborns (by contract with the National Health System he/she carries out health visits for the first 3 years of the child’s life). Where paediatricians are active parties in the project (in 15% of the local projects), the most suitable moment to communicate to parents the importance of stimulating early literacy seems to be during the paediatric check-ups, which are expected to take place from 6 months to 5 years of age. The pediatricians hand out the NpL material and advise families to visit libraries regularly. The repeated and personal relationship between the paediatrician and the family should facilitate the transfer of information on the importance of early reading, which should be further strengthened in all possible environments starting from libraries.

Public libraries can offer great and effective opportunities to those who endeavour to attract potential or sporadic readers toward reading and consolidate inconsistent habits. Public libraries supply continuous learning opportunities to all citizens; among their priorities they attempt to propose reading as an experience free from duties and interference, through broad and diversified offers. The librarian knows books and how to make children love them; reaches pregnant mothers and can “bring the library” to health centers where prenatal courses are held; is in contact with the nursery schools and can join them in organizing “book parties” and promote open meetings for all children.

Reading volunteers in the libraries, in surgery waiting rooms and hospitals, read aloud to children, showing parents and children the pleasure and techniques of looking at books together.

Subscription to “Nati per Leggere” is intentionally free of red tape, it suffices to fill in the online form at www.natiperleggere.it/index.php. The condition required is to share the mission of the project and the willingness to support locally the activities to promote and enhance the experience of reading within the family, making parents and every adult involved in early childhood aware of this initiative.

Extension and organization of the project
The “Nati per Leggere” appeal has received support from the more mature central and northern Italian libraries as well as from many paediatric centres and the more active public libraries of the south.
By late 2007, the project interested areas corresponding to 33% of the national population (in 2003 it was 15.22%), with the participation of 7403 professionals among librarians, paediatricians, social/health professionals, nurseries’ and playschools’ educators. In 2007, the local projects reached out to 255,918 children under 6 years of age, representing 23.42 % of the target population. In 57% of the local projects, a book is given to the child during the paediatrician’s health visit, at birth, at the first library visit.1
One of the main positive results is a growing attention from the communities towards the needs of families and children.
In many local projects reading has encouraged the encounter and networking of professionals from diverse although related fields and also services aimed at children’s care, reinforcing the actions taken by each service as promoted by the recently released IFLA Guidelines for library services to babies and toddlers:2
“For many people the public library is not the first place they would go. In order to get everybody in touch with all the materials for babies and toddlers the library should get closer to the lives of people in the community. Waiting rooms (doctors, dentists, hospitals), family education centres, special small collections of picture books in day care centres, and pre-schools are perfect places to get in touch with the target group. Working together with staff of health care centres is necessary because in many countries almost all parents visit those centres with their babies where the growth, weight, physical and speech development are checked regularly. The early years are the most important ones for speech development and therefore library staff must focus on working together in a network of appropriate professionals.”3
That is what NpL tries to realize.

A video to promote reading with babies and toddlers
A video “Il progetto Nati per Leggere” has been released thanks to Assicurazioni Generali (an italian insurance company). The film features some daily situations: mothers and children sharing books, paediatricians talking to mothers about books and how to begin reading with their babies, parents talking about the experience of reading with their children. The featured library is Sala Borsa in Bologna, where since 2010 a new comfortable space thought for babies and toddlers and their caregivers has been created.

Printed materials have been produced to be given to families (a leaflet with suggestions on how, when and what to read to children and 6 bookmarks, in italian and in the languages of non-native communities) and to professionals (a leaflet on how to promote the project).

On the level of local community where children and parents live, we can see a growing social role of libraries in concrete actions of partnership with local agencies and creative reading projects, e.g.:

  • giving necessary multilingual information to local communities including more and more families with languages different from Italian. Some counties have begun to do so, e.g. Emilia Romagna, Piemonte and Friuli Venezia Giulia;
  • involving children and parents together to promote first positive encounters with books, for instance in Imola at Casa Piani where the library organised a “soft tactile book workshop”;
  • involving the city and surroundings in a “Festival Nati per leggere: reading together...for growing up well” in Ravenna province;
  • publishing a book [with poems and special illustrations on the topic of growing] to be handed out to newborns in Piemonte and Rome;
  • involving preschool institutions teachers and voluntarily trained readers in a “Little stories week” in Turin, Rome and many other smaller cities.


Financial support
The most important public Institution that gives financial support to NpL is the Province (30%) followed by the City Council (23%), Banks and Foundations provide 10% of funding. Since 2009, NpL has received financial support from the Centro per il libro e la lettura (a national institution dedicated to promoting books and reading).

Research: monitoring reading attitudes
23% of the pediatricians involved in NpL take part in a study that monitors the parents’ reading attitude. The study is based on a questionnaire administered to parents during the health checkups of children aged between 6 months and 6 years, before and after the NpL intervention.4
This study seeks to determine whether programs such as “Nati per Leggere” (NpL) are associated with increased reading aloud activities.
Results referring to nine Italian sites before the NpL intervention show that:

  • The positive attitude towards reading aloud corresponds to about 20% with important and statistically significant differences between southern (10%), central (20%) and northern (30%) Italy.
  • The child’s age influences parents’ attitudes towards reading aloud;
  • A doctor’s anticipatory guidance or the use of specific materials regarding NpL correlates with increased reading aloud.

The implementation of NpL programs seems to be associated with increased parental support for reading aloud. These results need confirm from the post-intervention data.

Collaboration with the government
NpL was awarded a prize by the Ministry of Culture as “Best national reading and book promotion event in 2001”.

International contacts
International collaborations and sharing of experiences help us to be more effective in promoting early literacy. NpL is especially grateful to the american project Reach Out and Read that inspired our action.
NpL helped colleagues in Spain to get started with a similar program “Nascuts per llegir” and in Germany “Nati per leggere/Deutschland” in Unna near Dortmund.

Author: Giovanna Malgaroli

About the author:
Giovanna Malgaroli worked in several public libraries in the province of Milan for two decades, from the 1980s until 2004. Since then, she has worked in the social services unit of a town in the same geographical area. Member of AIB since the 1990s and in the NpL National Committee since 2000. In the same year, Giovanna edited Biblioteche per bambini e ragazzi: costruzione, gestione e promozione delle raccolte (Children’s and young adults’ libraries: conception, management and promotion), Rome, AIB, 2000.

Contact:
Segreteria Nazionale Nati per Leggere
Centro per la Salute del Bambino onlus
Via Nicolò de Rin, 19
34143 Trieste, Italia
E-Mail: npl@aib.it
Internet: www.natiperleggere.it

Bibliography:
1 Nati per Leggere: un primo bilancio a dieci anni dall`avvio (1999 – 2009) di Giovanna Malgaroli. Bollettino AI, marzo – giugno 2010; vol. 50, n. 1-2, p. 7-24. Available at www.aib.it.

2 Document published by International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA), representing library institutions and associations all over the world and promoting their activities. The guidelines were published in early 2008 by AIB (Associazione Italiana Biblioteche, Italian Libraries Association).

3 IFLA, Guidelines for library services to babies and toddlers, IFLA, 2007
IFLA, Linee guida per i servizi bibliotecari ai bebè e ai piccolissimi entro i tre anni, AIB, 2008

4 La promozione della lettura ad alta voce in Italia: valutazione dell`efficacia del progetto Nati per Leggere in Italia di Luca Ronfani, Alessandra Sila, Giovanna Malgaroli. Quaderni ACP settembre-ottobre 2006; vol XIII, n. 5 p. 187-194. Available at www.natiperleggere.it.

 
 

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