The nominees for the Joy of Reading award 2021
The nominees for the Joy of Reading award 2021 are:
Accessible Library. The room Delfina Otero Villarán, Peru
Accessible Library is a project with a pivotal focus on people with visual impairment and blindness. The initiative works closely with several communities in Peru, where it provides services that support people with visual disabilities, e.g. access to reading and learning materials. Also, the project offers technology that makes traditional reading formats accessible for visually challenged people.
Library for the visually impaired
The project was initialized by Carlos Ramos, who gradually experienced a decline in visual acuity, at the age of 25. Therefore, the initiative also revolves around the rehabilitation process of learning how to live with a visual disability. Many children are not Braille literate due to the fact that they did not have access to a literacy program in the area they grew up. The project aims to change this by providing education in Braille, but also by providing collections of books in accessible formats.
The themes of text materials range from literary works, university text, manuals, cookbooks to the likes of songbooks and simple school texts.
Accessible Library has almost been running since the beginning of this millennium. Doing its lifetime, the project has served an astounding 39.000 people with visual impairments, while answering more the 122.000 inquiries about information, both in-person and online. Recently, due to the pandemic, Accessible Library has chosen to expand the scope of its services to other parts of the country via digital technology, where workshops and events are organized via Zoom and Facebook.
De Schoolschrijver, Holland
“De Schoolschrijver” is a Dutch project which translates to “writer in the school”. The primary goal of the project is to reverse the alarming development in the Netherlands, where the joy of reading amongst children has dropped significantly in recent years. In order to change these circumstances, the initiative mainly focuses on how best to increase children’s level of enjoyment when reading.
According to the team behind the project, they found that one way to evoke the joy of reading was to connect the children with the authors of children’s books – after all, who is better suited to showcase the magic of reading and writing than the author who does it for a living? Therefore, the project initiated “Half Year Programme” where one author visits the same school once a week for six months, reading stories with the children and teaching them to write their own stories. Additionally, the initiative also educates teachers to actively incorporate creativity in their own classes, whilst parents are offered workshops with practical tips to create a stimulating reading environment at home.
Strengthening the joy of reading
The interactions between children and authors create a sincerity between the them. The authors support and encourage the children to write their own stories, which connects reading and writing. This approach helps children become more motivated which over time increases their abilities and confidence.
The impact of the project is huge. Annually, more than 100.000 students are directly affected by the project. In 2020, 11.000 of those were children with low language proficiency skills. Moreover, De Schoolschrijver project also includes the most important people around the children, namely the teachers and the parents in order to foster the perfect learning environment. These changes have contributed to a significant boost of the children’s joy of reading, while also drastically impacting their language skills positively.
Reading on the street initiative, Uganda
Reading on the street is an original initiative that helps neglected people in Uganda. The project’s focal point of attention is children between the age of 3-14 from disadvantaged homes as well as inmates in prisons who are denied access to education material and information. The team behind the project launched the initiative back in 2016 with the ambitions of helping those people in true despair and those who have been forgotten or excluded by society. Inspired by the thoughts that everybody deserves a second chance in life, the Reading on the Street initiative distributes books and reading material to citizens in several cities, who are not able to visit libraries or other reading facilities. This is done by riding a customized bike with a wagon loaded with books and reading material that stimulates and promote learning for both children and adults.
Reading is for everyone
Moreover, the initiative does also include other forms of learning such as acting and dancing in order to educate. Children are tasked with reading a story, whereafter they are asked to organize and play out the specific story in a theatrical way. Assignments like these encourage the children to read more books, which increases the level of literacy. Also, it gives the children with poor reading skills a chance to showcase other abilities, i.e. dancing and acting skills.
The project also started the “Leave No One Behind” as a library service to inmates, whose fates are often sealed when they receive the verdict. In order to change these unfortunate circumstances, the project focuses on helping the prisoners improve their reading and writing abilities, whilst also bringing some joyful moments in their daily struggle.
The initiative helps create awareness about groups in society whose situation is often irreversible due to prison, poverty or lack of education. The initiative has reached around a thousand children and round 350-400 prisoners through different initiatives. The team behind the project has brought joy and hope to people who had lost all hope.
The Great African Read, South Africa
The Great African Read is a forward-thinking initiative with noble aspirations. The main purpose of the initiative is to significantly reduce the level of illiteracy across all of South Africa. The Great African Read is a book for children that consists of a compilation of stories collected from young South Africans with different demographics. The revenue from the book sales creates the funding for the initiative which supports two target groups, namely primary school students from rural underdeveloped communities and high school students across South Africa.
The initiative uses content created for children to fund other parts of the illiteracy circle, e.g. renovating or building reading rooms for schools in need, as well as providing them with different reading resources. Afterall, the two main reasons why 78% of South African children in grade 3 still cannot read for meaning is lack of access to reading material and textbooks. Therefore, this initiative does counter these disastrous circumstances. Furthermore, it also ignites the joy of reading amongst children in an inspiring way that actively encourages the children to dream and hope, while developing their reading abilities.
Many African children do not have the common privilege of owning their own books, or merely the access to read them. The Great African Read initiative serves to bridge this gap by affording books to children and developing rural schools with reading facilities and material.
The impact of the Great African Read is concentrated around young children in primary schools. Around 800 primary students have been affected by the project. Also, the project runs in a circular and sustainable way, as it encourages young writers to publish their own stories in the Great African Read book series, which then generates more content resulting in a virtuous circle as more books can then be sold, thus fortifying the life of the project.
The Treasure Chest, Denmark
The Treasure Chest is a creative and thoughtful initiative that has been running in Denmark since August 2008. The primary goal of the project is to support and develop the reading and learning abilities of bilingual children in kindergarten. The families are mostly immigrants or refugees. Therefore, many of them struggle with reading and writing, especially in Danish. The initiative aims at bridging the gap between language minorities in several ways.
Supporting bilingual literacy
The programme supports parents, who have low levels of literacy, with tools to develop their children’s love of reading, even though they are unable to read themselves. The added outcome is the opportunity for parents to learn from their children and to extend the conservations into the family’s first language.Children experience a great satisfaction when they are able to participate in dialogues and playful activities. They develop important abilities such as being able to verbally express their minds and gain a better comprehension and vocabulary.
The pedagogues and schoolteachers express excitement about the initiative, as they observe a significant difference in the children’s ability to learn when they enter primary school.
The Treasure Chest initiative reaches approximately 3000 children per year, where roughly 10% of the children come from a bilingual home environment where the parents are either illiterate or unable to read books in Danish. Before the initiative was established, bilingual children often began in elementary-school with none or a very limited amount of experience with reading books. The gap between children with a majority and minority language background has diminished due to the initiative. It alleviates the disadvantages that some bilingual children experience, thus creating a better society overall.
Za'atari Camp Libraries, Jordan
Za’atari Camp Libraries in Jordan is a unique network of twelve library systems run by refugees themselves with the cooperation of six NGOs. Their innovative operations offer book clubs, writing clubs, cultural preservation services, story-time programmes, literacy initiatives, readers’ advisory services, internet and media safety training, and community outreach.
A unique network of twelve libraries
The network of libraries promotes the joy of reading and resilience through reading to all refugees using innovative programmes and strategies based on Syrian culture. The programmes directly influence refugees of all ages who desperately need help with reading and whose literacy needs are compounded by war trauma, early marriage, child labour, poverty, and restrictions on books, telecoms, Internets, and electricity.
The initiative differs from other projects as it only revolves around supporting refugees in a single camp. Consequently, the assistance they provide can be tailored much more to the actual needs of the Syrian refugees which increases the impact and success of the programme.
They also provide information literacy education to address an alarming development, as many refugees are targeted by online scammers who proffer fake employment, immigration, and other opportunities and disinformation about amnesties, return of the property, and military conscription in Syria.
With a focus on remedying the cruelties experienced by the “lost generation of Syria”, the impact of this project is massive as it covers the entirety of the enormous refugee camp. More than 20.000 illiterate refugees experience the joy of reading and learning due to the project. For many, reading becomes a tangible joy, an escape from adversity and the daily struggle of living in a refugee camp. By introducing different education programmes, the Za’atari Camp Libraries support Syrian refugees with an inspiring hope of a better tomorrow.