Did you know you can change a life? Changing a life is easy.

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Changing a life is easy.

Start by watching this short film.


Changing a life is as simple as sharing a book with a child. This is the message that has engaged and enthused  a team of librarians, academics, family workers and local authority education specialists from across five European cities who are part of the Erasmus Plus project ‘Open the Door for Reading’

There is a growing body of research that provides the evidence about the benefits of reading aloud to a child: whether you are a parent, caregiver, teacher or from a whole host of professions working with children and families.  The research by Shahaeiana et al (2018) offers a comprehensive overview of the benefits,

Results indicated that early shared reading was associated with children’s academic achievement directly and indirectly through receptive vocabulary and early academic skills. Also, the frequency of early shared reading predicted the outcome measures, over and above other home learning activities. Associations were stronger among low and middle socioeconomic status groups compared to the high socioeconomic status group. We conclude that shared reading offers unique opportunities for adults to teach young children new words and concepts

Gothenburg, in Sweden had for some time been troubled by the apparent decline in caregivers reading to and with children, and the city embarked on an initiative to promote reading – to be “The City Where We Read for our Children”. Their research had suggested that only four in ten parents read with or to their child.

To develop the project further Gothenburg applied for Erasmus Plus funding for the ‘Open the Door for Reading’ Project launched with cities that had a similar focus: Turku in Finland; Brussels in Belgium; Milan in Italy and Bristol. Each city faces particular challenges and has similar issues with families who have traditionally been harder to engage in education or social services.  Details of the project can be found on the website. The cities have met three times now and have learnt from the practice in each country. Exciting ideas like cloakroom libraries in Gothenburg; bedtime story book shelves in early years settings in Turku and using UWE teacher training students to read with children in Bristol have ignited the imaginations of participants. Gothenburg also shared the short film linked at the start of this piece. It was produced to promote reading to caregivers. It is a powerful reminder of the impact of reading for both the child and the caregiver.

The Bristol team, Debbie Miles and Cerys Stevens (Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders), Kate Murray (Head of Libraries) and Jane Carter have been working on the projects’ output: a practitioners’ guide to supporting caregivers with reading. This guide is full of practical ideas and tips for non-education focused professionals in ways to encourage first steps in communication around a text. It is hoped that midwives, social workers, family workers and early years professionals will become ambassadors for reading in the knowledge of its life changing effects.

The team is also now trying to gather support for a Gothenburg style initiative in Bristol and has begun to plan ‘Bristol, a reading city’. The city’s councillors are interested in the project as are many stake holders who attended a first meeting a few weeks ago to plan possible first steps in the project. Representatives came from local businesses, charities, city council services (Early Years; Family Support), the museum, libraries and schools. We are currently exploring funding avenues and hope to establish the first Bristol Cloakroom libraries along with community reading ambassadors. I am planning for UWE students to be involved in this exciting initial step and with the ‘Bristol a Reading City’ when funding is secured. Watch this space!

Author: Dr Jane Carter, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Education and Childhood, the University of the West of England.


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