The aim of our project is to inform families with children 0-5 years old, especially those living at risk of poverty and social exclusion, on the benefits of reading to their children, encourage them to engage in this activity and ensure free access to books. We intend to implement a reading promotion program with the participation of health professionals who work in public primary health care settings, as well as establish a number of “reading spots” in areas that lack a children’s library.
Athens, the capital and most populous urban agglomeration of Greece, is the area that was more severely affected by the recent 10-year economic crisis. A big number of families living at risk of poverty and social exclusion are settled in Athens, including the immigrant and refugee families that arrived in the city in the last years. Families living in difficult conditions cannot afford to buy books and Athens hosts only a limited number of children’s libraries, which cannot sufficiently respond to the reading needs of the children’s population. Moreover, the libraries do not have enough titles in other languages, so immigrant and refugee families have extremely limited access in books written in their mother tongue.
Taking into account that a. literacy is an essential tool for understanding and using knowledge, which is crucial for active citizenship, and b. people’s literacy skills are largely determined in their early years, with children raised in book-friendly environments having a head start, our project aims to give more children the chance to evolve into confident readers with high literacy, cognitive, emotional and social skills, which will eventually lead to adults able to participate critically and consciously in the society as active citizens. Moreover our family-oriented project supports and empowers parents in their role and responds to their need for spaces that will be meeting points for the exchange of information, concerns and ideas.
Our target group consists of the families of babies, toddlers and children of preschool age, especially those at risk of poverty or social exclusion (32.2% of children 0-16 years old in Greece, according to EUROSTAT, 2018). In order to reach them, we will create a strategic alliance with: a. health visitors (community health specialists) working in primary health care settings, where a range of services are provided for free (e.g. vaccinations, child development follow-up etc.) and b. municipal authorities, who will be responsible for providing us with spaces in order to set up the “reading spots”.
• We will organize a training course for health visitors (HV) on reading promotion, asking them to integrate reading promotion intervention in their everyday practice, either at the setting or at home visits.
• HV will inform parents on the benefits of reading to their children and connect them with the library or a nearby reading spot. HV will be provided with books to use during the intervention; additionally half of the families with children 6-18 months old will be offered one book as a gift.
• The reading spots will be equipped with multilingual book collections for lending purposes. They will be set up and run by our team, which will suggest developmentally appropriate books, design and realize reading promotion activities, help parents create a book friendly environment at home.
We expect a. to reach about 1.000 families and convince more than half of them to start reading to their children on a regular basis; b. to create a network of committed health visitors who will permanently integrate reading promotion intervention in their daily practice; c. to attract a significant number of families at the reading spots and highlight the need to take action for the creation of more and better equipped libraries; d. to see how significantly book-gifting affected parents’ and children’s attitudes towards reading; e. to collect data that will prove the need to continue this and/or similar interventions that emphasize the role of early childhood in the acquisition of literacy skills; f. to expand our network of allies and collaborators.
The literacy crisis that affects every country in Europe has severe social, political and economic consequences that damage democracy and endanger the common European future. It is widely acknowledged by European institutions, international organizations and civil society actors that there is an urgent need to invest in literacy promotion policies. There are many successful initiatives that focus on the crucial role of early childhood intervention in an effort to remedy this deep rooted problem. In this context, we desire to join forces for this common cause; the intervention we plan and the data that will be collected during its implementation will contribute to the European dialogue and will help in the exploration of more possible solutions.
We are the first organization in Greece that highlighted the importance of early literacy and, inspired by similar projects implemented with excellent results in other countries (e.g. Bookstart, Reach Out & Read, Nati per Leggere), we have been working towards this idea since our foundation in 2013. Having completed a series of relevant pilot actions, we are ready for the next step: the implementation of a large-scale intervention to enhance early literacy development by integrating reading promotion into primary healthcare. Our previous projects were received enthusiastically both by the professionals involved and the target families; however their evaluation made clear that, for such an intervention to be viable and successful, access to an abundance of books is absolutely necessary.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Books: 20.000 EUR
Personnel cost: 15.000 EUR
Training Course: 3.000 EUR
Project management: 4.000 EUR
Other expenses: 8.000 EUR
Any kind of feedback, suggestions, proposals and ideas will be valuable for our team.