Annual General Meeting 2024: Promoting literacy in a changing world

Modern society is facing big challenges: all over Europe (and beyond), people are worried about misinformation and the impact it has on nations.

Social media is by now ever-present in our daily lives, and the group of (even young) children using them keeps growing. Meanwhile, their reading skills decline. The development of Artificial Intelligence is reaching a momentum that is being followed closely (and with fear?) in the fields of education and the creative sector. World crises dominate mainstream media.

In this context, it seems even more essential for reading promoters to fight illiteracy and to promote reading skills in general. We see a clear correlation between declining reading skills in society and the aforementioned problems. But how do we get that message across to parents, teachers, and our financial partners and promoters? How can we raise awareness of these issues at local, national, and European levels? What is our responsibility, and what is our response?

The AGM 2024 will be held on the 3rd and 4th of June, 2024, in Athens (Greece).

Location: Premises of Goethe-Institut Athens, 14-16 Omirou str., Athens, Greece.

AGENDA

3rd June, 2024

12.30 – 13.00 Registration

13.00 – 13.20 Welcome notes by the special guests

13.20 – 13.30 Official opening by Dr. Jörg F. Maas, Chair of EURead

13.30 – 14.15 EURead Strategic Vision and List of Recommendations – Discussion for further actions

14.15 – 14.55 Welcoming our new members

14.55 – 15.20 The Greek perspective on Literacy and Reading Promotion

15.20 – 15.50 Coffee Break

15.50 – 16.25 What does science say about reading?

16.25 – 17.45 Let’s Talk About… Early Literacy

  • Update from the Global Network for Early Years Bookgifting
  • Presentation of the Bookgifting Toolkit
  • Some good practices from our members

17.45 – 18.00 Reflections on Day 1

20.00 – 22.00 Official Dinner

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4h June, 2024

9.30 – 12.30 General Assembly – Members Only! Finances, Legal Matters, Reports from the EURead Teams etc.

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch (Street Food Challenge)

13.30 – 14.20 Let’s Talk About… New Media

  • Tobias Henning – General Manager Operations Germany, CEE & Israel, TikTok
  • Sonja Hoge, Managing Director of Onilo

14.20 – 14.30 Short Coffee Break

14.30 – 16.00 Let’s Talk About… Reading Promotion and Politics

  • Reading promotion initiatives in Eastern Europe
  • Good Practices in the field of reading promotion and politics

16.00 – 16.15 Members’ Reflections and Closing of the AGM 2024

———–

18.30 – 20.30 Open Forum “Literacy and Democracy”

PISA in Bologna: how to fight low reading skills – A Panel Discussion during BCBF 2024

For the 61st time, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2024 will attract publishers, authors, illustrators, and book lovers from all over the world. While the book fair is dedicated to the development of a vital industry, most professionals in the book industry are aware of the declining reading skills of both children and adults.

PISA results provide scientific proof of this downward trend, sometimes referred to as the reading crisis. While Bologna is filled with great new books each year, the question remains: what if no one reads them? What if books become a relic of the past in the future?

From 9:30 to 10:20 on April 9, 2024, during a panel discussion in the Authors’ Café (Hall 30, Bologna Fiere), reading promoters from both inside and outside the publishing industry will shed light on this question.

Moderated by Daan Beeke (Stichting Lezen / EURead network manager), the panelists will discuss whether reading promotion could be a solution and how publishers can play a role in this process.

“Bologna Children’s Book Fair gives us a great opportunity to spotlight reading promotion. To ensure all children read and to combat illiteracy, we must address this issue here and now, seeking comprehensive solutions and stable partnerships across all sectors,” says Mr. Beeke.

During the panel discussion, Elaina Ryan (Children’s Books Ireland), Lovisa Fhagher Logothetis (Bonnier Family Foundation, Sweden), and Anna Zdrojewska-Zywiecka (Mamania/Relacja sp. z o.o. Publishing Group, Poland) will shed light on this question. Attendees will also learn more about what lies at the core of reading promotion.

If you are interested in this topic and are attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2024, join us for a cup of coffee and a lively discussion on the future of reading and books!

All visual materials for the event are created by Valerie Weilheim.

About the panelists:

Elaina Ryan

Elaina grew up in Wexford and Waterford. She holds a BA in Languages and Cultural Studies from University of Limerick and an MLitt in Publishing from University of Stirling. She has a background in children’s book publishing and is co-Artistic Director, with Niamh Sharkey, of Towers and Tales Children’s Book Festival in Lismore, County Waterford. Elaina has led the team in Children’s Books Ireland since 2013.

Lovisa Fhager Logothetis

At the Bonnier Family Foundation Lovisa Fhager Logothetis leads the work with several reading promotion methods, one that aims to get young people to read aloud to younger children during the first week of the summer holidays. Lovisa is an expert in children’s rights. She holds a master’s in political science and has a background in organizations Amnesty International and Unicef and is part of several different expert networks for children’s rights. She previously led a civil society organization that worked on equality issues that distributed over a million books to Swedish children and youths for free.

Anna Zdrojewska-Zywiecka

Anna studied Cultural Studies at the University of Warsaw and the University of Amsterdam. She is also an MBA graduate of the SGH Warsaw School of Economics. In 2010 she founded Mamania publishing house that specializes in parenting and children’s books. Anna and her company are among the founders of the Universal Reading Foundation. The foundation is supporting children’s development and supporting adults in their parenthood, showing the great importance of reading in both those areas.

Daan Beeke

Daan Beeke studied Dutch Literature at Utrecht University and started his career as high school teacher of Dutch Literature and Language. Since 2008 he works for the Dutch Reading Foundation (Stichting Lezen) as a domain specialist, working on high school projects and programs. He is also involved in the EURead network and in the Global Network for Early Years Bookgifting, as a network manager. 

Graphic design:

Valerie Weilheim

Valerie holds a degree in Literature from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (Magna Cum Laude, 2019). She works as an editor, illustrator and reading promoter. In Venezuela she has been a workshop leader for Rana Encantada since 2010, is part of the evaluation committee for children’s and young adult books of Banco del Libro and is the co-founder of the fanzine publisher Perro Amorfo (2017). She also collaborates with the digital magazine Pez Linterna and the Asociación Artística-Sociocultural Mestiza (San Sebastian).

Portfolio: https://www.behance.net/valerieweilheim Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/valerieilustra

Empowering European Literacy: Insights from the Second Day of European Authors Conference

The 2024 Day of European Authors, initiated by the European Commission, took place on March 25, 2024. Teachers, librarians, students and book lovers from across Europe came together to celebrate the crucial role of writers, poets, translators, and illustrators in shaping the cultural diversity and richness of European literature.

Screenshot from the website of the European Commission – Day of European Authors

Among the various activities, the European Commission organised a conference in Leuven, Belgium, bringing together key stakeholders in culture, education, reading, and literacy to discuss potential solutions to the declining reading skills among European citizens.

The conference commenced with opening remarks by Ms Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, who said that “1 in 4 fifteen-year-olds don’t have the appropriate reading skills in the European Union”.

During the first panel, moderated by Elaina Ryan (CEO Children’s Books Ireland), panelists Dr. Dirk Hastedt (Executive Director, International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievements (IEA) and Dr. Tiziana Mascia (Adjunct Professor of Children’s Literature at the University of Urbino and Representative of the European Literacy Policy Network (ELINET) highlighted issues related to declining reading abilities based on assessment surveys like PIRLS and PISA, as well as the lack of motivation for reading among children.

“We talk about a lost generation to COVID but what about the lost generation from not reading?”, asked Dr. Hastedt.

Pledging for a common understanding and definition of what reading is, Valentina Stoeva (Chairperson of Reading Foundation Bulgaria and representative of EURead network) discussed the work of reading and literacy promoters. She underscored the critical role of families, kindergarten teachers, and librarians in both public and school libraries. Stoeva emphasized the need for support, based on research and carefully selected, high-quality books, to effect change in Europe’s reading landscape.

“Reading is a basic human right, and although it is not guaranteed by nature that individuals will be able to learn to read, we as a society must work on supporting everyone to become a reader, if we want to preserve the core democratic values and ensure that no one is left behind.” – said Valentina Stoeva.

The second panel, moderated by Daan Beeke (Domain Specialist at Stichting Lezen and Network Manager at EURead), delved into the importance of families, librarians, and reading promoters in shaping children’s interests from an early age, thereby preparing them for school and life. Presentations included the Flemish Reading Plan by Noa Heyndrickx (Literatuur Vlaanderen, Flanders, Belgium) and insights from Simon Bequoye (Iedereen Leest, Flanders, Belgium) on the significance of initiatives like BookStart and the role of libraries in providing access to books for families.

Benjamin Kesteloot (Director, Médiathèque départementale du Pas-de-Calais, France) and Laura Guindal Martínez (Deputy Director General for Coordination of Libraries at the Ministry of Culture, Spain) shared some insights of the projects they are developing in the field of reading. Special focus in this panel was put on Ukraine, with the keynote and thought provoking speech on the importance of “books as shelters for the mind” by Olena Odynoka (Deputy Director for International Cooperation, The Ukrainian Book Institute).

The third panel featured insights from three young individuals who shared their perspectives on reading and the curriculum.They highlighted the importance of encounters with authors and shared their personal experiences as avid readers, which often differ from the interests of their peers.

The second day of the conference saw fruitful discussions on various topics including the book sector, literary pedagogy, and promoting reading in the digital age. Key messages emerged, emphasizing:

  • The importance of early reading and shared reading for pleasure among parents and children, including the Early Years Bookgifting programmes.
  • The crucial role of reading promoters in supporting families, healthcare service employees, and educators with advice and books.
  • The significance of libraries, both public and school, and the need for support from national and local governments to ensure access to new books and knowledgeable librarians.
  • Closing the gender gap in reading by publishing stories that appeal to both boys and girls.

Looking ahead to the 2024 European Parliament elections, the conference participants expressed optimism about the positive impact of the event on the future of the European Union and Europe as a whole.

EURead members, participating in the Conference:

EURead members are participating in the conference for the second Day of European Authors

In the context of the second edition of the Day of European Authors (25th of March 2024) the European Commission organises a conference with the objective to foster collaboration between the book and the education sectors to tackle declining reading skills and habits among young people.

Elaina Ryan (Children’s Books Ireland), Daan Beeke (Stichting Lezen) and Valentina Stoeva (Children’s Books Foundation / Reading Foundation Bulgaria) will participate in the main panels of the conference, representing the EURead network and shedding light on the crucial role of reading promoters in tackling illiteracy.

The event will be opened by Iliana Ivanova – European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and Matthias De Moor ‐ General Representative of Flanders to the European Union.

More about the Conference and the Day of European Authors: https://culture.ec.europa.eu/event/2024-day-of-european-authors-conference

What happened in 2023? The EURead network’s review

A lot has happened for EURead in 2023.

We welcomed new members Libranda (Spain), Kitabistan (Azerbaijan), the Universal Reading Foundation (Poland) and the Reading Foundation (Bulgaria) and grew to 35 member organisations from 23 countries.  You can read about their good work at our newly launched website – the launch of it was another highlight of 2023. 

A big success was our Annual General Meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria. Our AGM is still at the core of our activities as a network, helping our members to learn from each other and be inspired. New to this AGM was a press conference, which served the purpose of raising awareness about the importance of reading in Bulgaria. 

But we did not only meet at our own main event: some EURead members are active contributors to the regularly held online meetings of the Global Network for Early Years Bookgifting. Please visit their website to learn more about those online meetings. 

Our members also participated in important events across Europe: EURead members organised, moderated and/or participated in presentations and panel discussions at events like the World Literacy Summit, the Bologna Bookfair, the Day of European Authors conference, the Literacy Conference in Riga and the Frankfurter Buchmesse

EURead also signed the Ljubljana Manifesto, and was represented at the launch in Ljubljana. 

And yet we should not only look back at what EURead did as a network, but what all EURead members did and are doing in their own countries. Please stay tuned and we will keep you updated about their and our own activities.

Because 2023 made it very clear that reading promotion is essential for healthy societies, and we need to keep up the good work, both at a national and at a European level. 

PISA 2022: a Call for Action by EURead

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2022 results were announced on December 5th 2023. Nearly 700,000 15-year-old students in 81 countries were tested on mathematics, reading and science. The 8th edition, with a focus on maths, was also the first to collect data on student performance, well-being and equity before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article we summarize the results in reading, and EURead Chair Dr. Joerg Maas responds with a call for action.

Surprisingly so or not, on average, the PISA 2022 assessment saw an unprecedented drop in performance across the OECD. Compared to 2018, mean performance fell by 10 score points in reading. According to the insights, the decline in students’ performance can only partially be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, with falling scores in reading, science, and maths already apparent prior to 2018.

The survey also revealed the fast-changing impact of technology on children’s educational performance. While moderate use of digital devices in school was associated with higher performance, the researchers note that this depends on the technology being used to support rather than distract from learning. 

On average across OECD countries, students who spent up to one hour a day on digital devices for leisure scored 49 points higher in maths than students who spent between five and seven hours per day, after taking into account students’ and schools’ socio-economic profile. 45% of students reported feeling nervous or anxious if their phones were not near them, on average across OECD countries. 

The state of reading proficiency is alarming

According to the PISA 2022 Results (Volume I): The State of Learning and Equity in Education*, reading proficiency is defined as follows: “Reading literacy is understanding, using, evaluating, reflecting on and engaging with texts in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in society” (OECD, 2019[22]).

The proficiency of 15-year-old students in extracting and processing written information, to understand it and upgrade their previous knowledge, and to assess the truthfulness of the given text by using different kinds of media, are considered crucial for the 21stcentury. Unfortunately, the results show a significant decline in almost all of the participating countries. 

“The latest PISA report shows a devastating situation in most of the OECD countries: reading competence levels dropped once again in almost all countries participating in the study. Despite the fact that some countries performed better than most of the others, e.g. Ireland, Finland and Estonia, the key message is that all countries have to take additional measures to increase the reading competence level. Reading is the basis for every child and student to learn, to perform in school and to become a vital part of society – regardless of the economic or educational level of their parents.” – says Dr. Joerg F. Maas, CEO of the German Reading Foundation and Chair of EURead.

Scientific evidence indicates that, irrespective of the socio-economic background of families, reading from a parent to a child can benefit children and add up to their academic success later in life. This process does not start in school, but is closely linked to the reading promotion and the proper support for families, healthcare specialists, kindergarten teachers, schoolteachers, librarians, etc. 

“The PISA study is once again a wake-up call for political decision makers in every European and OECD-country and reiterates the necessity for more and better reading promotion and literacy programs in each of our countries and in Europe as a whole. 

We as EURead, the European network of organisations focusing on reading promotion and literacy, encourage the European Commission to take the PISA study seriously and to start a European program to increase reading competence of every child in Europe.” – states Dr. Joerg F. Maas

More about the PISA 2022 results: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/pisa-2022-results-volume-i_53f23881-en

* OECD (2023), PISA 2022 Results (Volume I): The State of Learning and Equity in Education, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/53f23881-en.

Day of European Authors: An Open letter to Commissioner Iliana Ivanova

European Commission

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Commissioner Iliana Ivanova

15.11.2023

Dear Commissioner Ivanova,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for becoming Commissioner for Education,
Youth, Sports and Culture – one of the key responsibilities to shape the Europe of tomorrow. We wish you and your team lots of success and a portion of fortune which is always needed for lasting and sustainable impact.

I am also writing today as CEO of the German Reading Foundation and Chair of EURead, the European network for reading promotion and literacy, representing 35 organisations and foundations from 23 countries across Europe to express our concern about the visibility and importance of the lack of reading competence and literacy in Europe.

More than 73 million adult Europeans cannot properly read and write.

More than one fourth of all children in Europe leave primary school without having the reading competencies they should obtain.

More than 4 out of 10 families do not read aloud to their children at home.

More than 23 percent of youth lack the reading competence they need to start in a successful life.

We as EURead members believe and are committed to change this: in each of our countries and across Europe for a better future of each child – but also for a better future of Europe.

Therefore, we have been quite euphoric about the European Commission’s decision last
year to initiate and celebrate the Day of European Authors – organized by the Creative Europe – Culture team. Various European networks have been invited to contribute ideas including libraries, booksellers, authors, translators and reading promotion and literacy organisations like EURead.

Despite the fact that we see value in bringing actors from different areas together, we felt a clear disappointment that the Creative Europe team expected us to contribute to the Day of European Authors but being unable to cover costs for important events, structures and occasions and campaigns.

We would have wished to see a clearer and measurable commitment from the European Commission to not only bring together authors from different countries and languages, but to put more efforts and financial commitments for reading promotion and literacy across Europe. Because without these important competencies, there will be shortly and in the near future no need to support authors, booksellers and libraries anymore when the diminishing demand and needs of young people for books and stories continues in the way it currently does.

We would like to encourage you and the European Commission to put a much stronger emphasis and financial support to reading promotion and literacy programs and campaigns.

The Day of European Authors is maybe one occasion to shed light on the need to invest more in reading and literacy. Europe needs far more initiatives and lasting commitment to overcome the devastating and alarming figures about the literacy rates of children, youths and adults in Europe.


Sincerely yours,

Dr. Joerg F. Maas

CEO of German Reading Foundation

Chair of EURead

EURead supports the Ljubljana Manifesto on Higher-Level Reading 

Issued on the 10th of October 2023 at a special press conference in the capital of Slovenia, the Ljubljana Manifesto on Higher Level Reading highlights the importance of book reading in the digital age.

Higher-level reading exercises metacognition and cognitive patience, expands our conceptual capacities, trains cognitive empathy and perspective-taking. These social skills are indispensable for informed citizens in a democratic society, the Manifesto emphasises. It calls for support of these skills from governments and society in general. 

The Ljubljana Manifesto was written by four reading and publishing researchers: André Schüller-Zwierlein, University of Regensburg, Germany; Anne Mangen, University of Stavanger, Norway; Adriaan van der Weel, Leiden University, Netherlands, and Miha Kovač, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The Manifesto is supported and signed by the German Academy of Language and Poetry, the International Publishers Association (IPA), the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), PEN International, the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY), the members of the European literacy network EURead, and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). In Slovenia, the Manifesto is supported by the Slovenian Book Agency. 

The document will be published today by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), Le Monde (France; online edition), Público (Portugal), Népszava (Hungary), Latvijas Avīze (Latvia), Dennik (Slovakia) and Delo (Slovenia).

During the press conference at Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, the authors of the Manifesto, along with special guests, discussed the significance of higher-level reading in the digital era. They highlighted its role in training analytical and critical thinking, fostering cognitive patience, and nurturing empathy – vital social skills for citizens in a democratic society.

Among the speakers in the Agenda were: Assist. Prof. Asta Vrečko (Minister of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia), Jose Borginho (Secretary General of the International Publishers Association), Anne Bergmann-Tahon (Director of the European Publishers Association), Daan Beeke (Dutch Reading Foundation; EURead Network Manager), Prof. Adriaan van der Weel (Leiden University; co-author of the Manifesto) and Prof. Miha Kovač (University of Ljubljana; co-author of the Manifesto and curator of the Slovenian program at the Frankfurter Buchmesse).

From left to right: Jose Borginho, Daan Beeke, Anne Bergmann-Tahon, Adriaan van der Weel, Minister Asta Vrečko, Miha Kovač

In his speech, Daan Beeke pointed out that:

‘Members of EURead know that reading is the key to a better society. Reading, to us, is a basic right.’

He briefly discussed three important themes from the Manifesto: turning the tide of declining reading skills, reconsideration of the role of higher-level reading in the digital era and emphasizing the necessity of resilient readers who are well-versed in higher-level reading for a thriving democratic society.

Beeke reflected on these themes from the perspective of the reading promoters, who are members of the EURead network. He emphasised the importance of early bookgifting programs, which lay the foundation for higher-level reading later in life.

‘Higher-level reading at a later age, can only be achieved when we start with the very, very young.  And that means we need to bring books to babies and toddlers, and help their parents to let their child grow up in a language rich environment.’

By signing the Manifesto, EURead hopes to help raise awareness that the challenge we are facing is very urgent.

Information on the Manifesto and its professional background: https://readingmanifesto.org/

The Ljubljana Manifesto is one of the pillars of Slovenia’s Guest of Honour program at the Frankfurter Buchmesse. For information about the planned events, check here.

Bulgaria Hosts the 2023 Annual General Meeting of EURead

On June 5th and 6th, 2023, Sofia will host this year’s general meeting of EURead, the literacy network, which will take place outside Brussels for the first time. Under the motto ‘Literacy across Europe: Reading is the Key,’ the summit will bring together leading experts from 20 countries, specializing in literacy, reading promotion, education, publishing, and communications.

Among the featured speakers are members of the EURead Board, including Dr. Jörg F. Maas, Executive Director of the Reading Foundation (Germany), Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of Book Trust (England, Wales, Northern Ireland), Gerlien van Dalen, Executive Director of the Reading Foundation (The Netherlands) and others.

During the forum, participants will exchange experiences and present projects and initiatives for promoting reading at national and global levels.

The latest studies from OECD and research institutes have documented clearly, that reading competencies have never been as bad as nowadays. More than 70 million Europeans lack these basic skills and have therefore no access to education, training and the labour market. It is time to remind political leaders across Europe that there is no economic and intellectual future without literacy and reading promotion. The Annual General Meeting of EURead this year in Sofia will be another milestone to call for more political commitment, for more financial support and better programmes for literacy and education. – said Dr. Jörg F. Maas, Chair of EURead. 

The meetings will be opened by Boyko Blagoev, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Katarina Barley, Vice-President of the European Parliament, and Miroslav Borshosh, Deputy Mayor for “Culture, Education, Sports, and Youth Activities” of Sofia Municipality. The event will be held at the Information Center of the European Union and the American Center at the Stolichna Library in Sofia.

You can follow the event on LinkedIn and other social media by using the hashtags #EURead #EuropeReads #ReadingIsTheKey

EURead visits the Bologna Chidren’s Book Fair

On April 8th, 2023, EURead organised a panel discussion at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Panelists from the Global Network for Early Years Bookgifting discussed a range of topics.

The panelists were: Emmi Jäkkö (Lukukeskus, Finland), Lotte Baert (Iedereen Leest, Flanders), Marijke Bos (Stichting Lezen, Netherlands) and Julia Norrish (Book Dash, South Africa). The panel was moderated by Daan Beeke (Stichting Lezen, Netherlands).

This year’s edition of the BCBF seemed to have more room for literacy skills and reading promotion. We hope this trend will be continued in the next editions.