Promotion of Reading and children’s literature Creating Tomorrow´s Readers of La Fuente Foundation: a successful experience on reading promotion.
Dear friends, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, reading promoters and cultural organizers, good afternoon.
To begin this presentation I would like to present you, in a general manner, what we do in our Foundation.
La Fuente Foundation is a non-profit institution created 8 years ago, which is dedicated to promote and implement educational and cultural initiatives that benefit low income areas in Chile.
- 40 x School libraries
- 28 x Mobile libraries
- 10 x Viva Library project (public libraries in shopping centers)
- 6 x Public libraries
- 4 x Cultural center projects
- 2 x Museums
- 2 x Patrimonial projects
- 52 x Municipalities in alliance
- Over 300.000 Books bought
- US$ 8.000.000 Invested in projects
La Fuente Foundation implements school, public and mobile libraries in low income sectors, both urban and rural, through our Program Creating Tomorrow´s Readers ®, with the objective of creating reading abilities among children between 4 and 10 years old. Our purpose is to create quality spaces that promote children’s reading and literature in public schools and community spaces that cannot rely on their own income to create libraries, specially, with reading materials appropriate to each stage of development.
Our Program Creating Tomorrow´s Readers ® is an initiative that promotes reading, whose strategies, are based on book loans and reading activities, such as storytelling and puppet theatre addressed to children, parents, teachers and the community in general. By creating libraries with friendly spaces that promote reading, we also increase the pleasure of reading.
Our mission is to implement school, public and mobile libraries, wherever it is necessary. We carry out this task with the support of private companies, educational institutions, school supporters and the government, thanks to the Cultural Donations Law, that allows donors to discount taxes.
Our goal is to generate reading habits among children between 4 and 10 years old. For us, it is very important to give children easy access to reading and books, especially to children of ages when teaching and molding is more feasible.
A child who develops the necessary skills to discover the world of books in a friendly and warm manner, will be a person with better opportunities to grow and to perform in different aspects of life. The child who learns to love books, to love reading and the magic worlds that entice him, will be a child with better developed cognitive abilities; he will be a child with better skills to relate with other children; he will be an imaginative and creative child; he will be a child capable of taking refuge inside a rich and fantastic world, whenever the real world threatens him with its grief or pain.
In general, people in Chile don’t read many books. According to the study on reading indicators carried out by La Fuente Foundation in 2006 and 2008: "Chile and Books: reading indicator and books acquisition”, 49% of those polled defined themselves as non readers and 51% as readers (both frequent and occasional readers). This means that, basically, half of Chilean people never or seldom read a book. Furthermore, between our 2006 and 2008 survey, we observed a significant decline in the number of readers, as in 2008 the percentage of readers fell by 5 points.
With these results, we should ask ourselves: How are we going to be capable of creating those children? How are we going to be capable of Creating Tomorrow´s Readers? For us, the answer is clear: give our children the possibility of having access to books; open as many quality libraries as possible in areas where people are far from this opportunity. Our mission as Foundation is to find the resources that allow us to bring books, reading, information and culture closer to areas that have been historically deprived of these benefits. The educational gap in our country is very wide; that is why we believe in providing equal opportunities in the access to culture.
Our school, public and mobile libraries are of high quality; there is no doubt about that. We provide durable materials that last as long as possible in order to benefit the greatest number of children and families. Likewise, we cover most of the areas of interest: fiction, handicrafts, history, psychology, self-help, mechanics, and education, for parents and adults in general. And for children thirsty of imagination, we provide books about animals, poetry, comics, adventures, romance, horror and mystery. We also pay great attention to furniture and space design, in order to create friendly environments that invite users to enjoy reading.
Whenever we implement a library, we teach users how to use it. For us, the most important thing is to create moments in which, those who have a need for information or recreation can access them. To attain this goal, we favor children taking the books home, as a way to get them closer, emotionally, to books and reading. Children read more comfortable sheltered in a couch at home. Maternal reading in bed before falling asleep generates unbreakable bonds with the imaginative worlds that are presented.
Likewise, we teach users to protect books. The effect generated is such, that children repair books that have been damaged at their homes. They feel the responsibility of looking after them, so they as well as their classmates have the opportunity of enjoying that same book.
We also try to obtain that emotional bond from reading activities, that intends to give life, “to give soul”, to books in every library. Storytelling and puppet shows are the best way that we have found in order to achieve this goal. To do so, we train the library personnel and teachers with reading activities techniques that allow children to get closer to the books they are reading, so children in a spontaneous manner feel the necessity of resorting to that book or another.
We strongly believe that a child that has been delighted with reading, that has understood the wonderful things of the world of books together with his tutors, parents or teachers, will more easily and frequently look for their own interests and needs of reading and entertainment. For us, adults molding younger people is fundamental when we foster the pleasure for reading, with the final goal of generating reading habits that promote the acquisition of diverse cognitive and social abilities.
For all these reasons, reading activities carried out at libraries are mainly playful. We always try to join quality literature with diversity, to create the storytelling and puppet shows that are weekly performed with children. In this line and intending to create varying activities and with an organization in time, we have established 6 thematic reading cycles. So, during March and April, we discover with children the months of love; in May we play with nature; in June and July, we open our eyes in the months of arts; before spring, during August and September, we encourage children to know other ways to get closer to books, through music, humor, and word games; in October, we meet our ancestors, thanks to the month of native people; finally, when the school year is closing, during November and December, we petrify ourselves with the months of horror, fantasy and supernatural, the most awaited months for children in our country.
As we said, storytelling and puppet shows try to get children closer to the diversity of the world that surrounds them. That is why we work with different kind of books, authors and narratives. During the month of love we specially like A Mother for Choco and The Pig’s Picnic by Keiko Kasza, and also the stories of Willy by Anthony Browne; with these books we can talk about the love of a mother, the love of friendship and the love of a couple, without any distinction.
For the month of arts, we play with Van Gogh, Degas and Picasso, thanks to Laurence Anholt books. In August and September, we travel through the world with music and poetry through the work of Latin-American poets like Nicolás Guillén, Neruda, Violeta Parra or Gabriela Mistral. They have been set to music by various artists.
In October we learn more about our native people and ethnic groups from the world: we travel to ancient China, we sail trough the Amazon rainforest, we walk through the Altiplano, we ride over the south of Chile and look into the depth of Greek mythology for our occidental origins.
The end of our trip scares us with Edgar Alan Poe, Lovecraft, Elsa Bornemann from Argentina and with the monsters of Maurice Sendak. With them, our children scream out of fright and then they rejoice when they understand that those monsters belong to those horror stories and they will not appear until the books are opened again.
The Children and Books Study: an Exploratory Approach to Children’s Reading Experience
Everything we have said here has empiric verification: the Children and Books Study: an Exploratory Approach to Children’s Reading Experience, carried out by La Fuente Foundation in 2007. Thanks to this study we could prove certain ideas that, until then, we could only imagine as reading promoters.
The study gathered the perception of children in relation to their reading pleasure, their reading habits and also their preferences when choosing a book. In this study, we surveyed 453 students from second to fourth grade in elementary schools, who had participated in our reading promoting programs in urban and rural areas throughout the country.
The study, which you will receive at the end of this presentation, shows interesting and relevant concepts that are useful for all of us who work in reading promotion and in establishing policies and strategies in order to improve our work. For example, when the child has to choose among recreational activities, we can appreciate that reading has the second place of preferences. Furthermore, in general terms, data obtained indicates that 88% of children like or like a lot reading and only 4% of children declare not to like it at all.
If we compare urban and rural children we can observe a big difference: in urban areas, the activities that children prefer doing during their spare time are: first, playing, then, watching TV and, third, reading. But children from rural areas prefer reading books in the first place, then playing and studying in the third place. If we take this paradigm and think about the significant differences that exist between the urban and the rural world, in terms of access to a better education, we could take advantage of rural children's preferences in order to establish better strategies of approaching books, to improve their education in relation to children from urban areas.
As we said before, for us it is fundamental that users of our libraries borrow books and take them home, especially, children. The study shows that 70% of children declare that they willingly borrow books whenever they visit the library.
Again, in this respect, there are important differences between rural and urban areas: in rural areas, there are quite larger percentages of weekly reading than in urban areas, 85% versus 55% respectively. Also, the percentage of children from rural areas that borrow books once a week is higher in 26 points than the percentage of children from urban areas.
When we talk about the importance of reading in the sheltered environment of home, the study indicates that 86% of children prefer reading in their houses, and only 14% opts for school as a reading environment. Considering these data, it is possible to state that reading is considered, by most children, as an activity associated to leisure time, as opposed to duties or homework from school. All this allows us also to validate the fundamental act of providing recreational reading that produces pleasure in reading without the obligation of having an assessment of it. This study confirms the relevance of reading, just for the pleasure of doing so.
When we select reading materials according to the preferences of our children, we believe we are going in the right direction: as the study shows, the favorite books of children are those about horror, adventures, animals and nature. For this reason, we like Eric Carle and his caterpillar a lot, the monkeys and gorillas of Anthony Browne, Frog by Max Velthuijs, Olivia the piglet by Ian Falconer, Elmer the Elephant by David McKee, the adventures of Winnie the Witch by Korky Paul and the imagery of Chris Van Allsburg and Satoshi Kitamura. We look for the bond with nature through native groups of the world and the especial communication that they have with it: we like the particular vision of Latin-American native cosmogony of Amanuta publishing house; the collection Ponte Poronte by Ekaré publishing house; and the narrative collection from different latitudes of the world by the Mexican Fondo de Cultura Económica. We also get children closer to the world of witches, monsters and ghosts that we find in literature considered rather for grown ups, like Poe, Anne Rice, Lovecraft, R.L. Stine, the magic worlds of J.K. Rowling, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among thousands of others that we select for our audience.
It will probably not surprise you that our children prefer books with many drawings and colours, medium and large size letters and many pages. These are the design and format preferences showed by the survey. What does it mean? The answer is clear, children prefer picture books. They prefer an approach to reading together with images, with a letter size they can easily read, and with many pages, so that the entertainment will last as much as possible.
For us it is fundamental and very meaningful to have the opportunity of working in the reading promotion world. We strongly believe in the need of contributing from the private sector to the education and culture of our country. We feel the need of supporting government policies and strategies related to books and reading, obtaining resources from companies and institutions that favor the development of our country.
We believe that our biggest contribution is to provide high quality libraries, in terms of the collection they have, the special environment we create and the access to information they provide, and most of all, that we provide books to our diverse users, and enhance them with the pleasure of reading.
As you will see in the study that we are about to provide you, our children are willing and very eager to read. This gratifies us tremendously when we establish that our first goal is precisely that: promote the pleasure of reading.
It is said that Chilean people do not like reading… our children do want to read…
Veronica Abud, Chile
31st IBBY Congress, Copenhagen 2008