Swedish booksellers in partnership with schools and libraries
The original aim of the program A BOOK FOR EVERY CHILD is to promote children's reading through book talk and other reading activities in schools and libraries and visits to the local bookshop. Every child who participates is invited by the bookseller to choose a free book to keep.
The program sets the spotlight on the situation when the child enters school for the first time. In school we have the opportunity to give every child a lasting understanding of the joy of reading. A good contact between the school and its surroundings is essential. Many years of experiences in the Nordic countries show that close cooperation between librarian, teacher and students give very good results. And this is where the bookseller has proven to be an important partner.
A BOOK FOR EVERY CHILD (EN BOK ÅT ALLA) started with a few schools in 1996. The Book-in-Sweden Foundation took the initiative, in close cooperation with the Swedish Booksellers Association. The program has since then become nationwide.
This is how it works
The basic idea has now been applied for five consecutive school years. An application to take part in the program is submitted by a bookseller, librarian or teacher, preferably all together. A number of classes in compulsory school are chosen for the project. The upper limit for each local project is around 200 students. Then it's up to the bookseller, the librarian, the teacher and the children to agree on reading activities and present their plans in a short paper.
Book talk, reading groups, exhibitions and reviews are useful ingredients in a local project. Study visits to the bookshop are scheduled for the participating classes. Every child receives as a gift a book of his/her choice.
So far (June 2010) more than 300 local projects have been supported. Hundreds of teachers and librarians have contributed with book talk and various activities. More than 150 bookshops have been visited and the participating booksellers have provided some 45 000 schoolchildren with the book they have chosen.
Reading promotion in many shapes
As a complement to government and municipal support this bookseller initiative strengthens the common resources for successful reading promotion. Activities show great variation and ingenuity. Every place has its profile. An extra effort is made to reach young people in the countryside, connecting the small school with a bookshop in the city.
The municipal school in Bjurholm in the very north of Sweden decided to focus on the art of story telling. A study trip with bus was arranged to the closest city, 50 miles! They were received by the bookseller and invited to choose the book of their wish. Later on the children could tell each other about their reading experiences.
More examples: In the town of Sölvesborg in southern Sweden the students could follow the path of a book all the way from the writer's pen to the bookshop. A famous writer visited the school and told about his books, how it is to be a writer, how to get ideas for stories and so on. Inspired by the writer the children wrote stories of their own. After book talk by teachers and librarian on a variety of books the work continued in reading groups. In the end every child received a free book of its own choice in the bookshop and the bookseller described the final way of the book to the reader.
In Kinnarp the program included book reviews by children. Students wrote their reviews in cooperation with the school librarian and the bookseller. Once a month reviews were presented on a full page in the local newspaper.
Educational collaboration between library and school in Skärholmen (Stockholm) was extended to include a couple of bookshops. In this way the project Wise Owl, with courses on language development and in-depth reading through reading groups, could be completed with visits to the bookshop where the children received the book of their individual choice.
Reading competitions have become quite popular in the schools. In Gävle such activities are used as "a road to awaken the lust for reading and make reading attractive among the students". Participation in A book for every child has been an additional encouragement for the best classes in those contests.
In Höganäs activities were linked to the network A Reading North (Ett läsande Norden), highlighting books by Nordic writers, translated into Swedish or in original Danish and Norwegian.
How do they know what book to choose?
It takes high standards for a book to make a contribution to a child's reading ability, awaken the joy of reading and sparkle a wish to experience good literature.
Knowledge of the rich variety of possible reading experiences is a key factor in A BOOK FOR EVERY CHILD. Teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents - in short all adults - decide with their knowledge if the student is going to make a good book choice. A thrilling and stimulating reading environment for children presupposes a lot of book talks, presentations, reading groups and reading aloud. To make it work all adults have to exert themselves to read books, even children's books.
The results are quite encouraging. The lists of selected books in the local projects show a surprising depth and variation. It's not only the 30-40 bestsellers at the time but over 1.000 titles that have been chosen so far. This proves the quality of the reading environment affecting the children's choice of books.
Getting the young to read is teamwork
In order to promote reading you will need knowledge as well as enthusiasm. But it isn't necessary for everybody to do the same thing. Different methods can lead to good results. As a matter of fact it is important that many different actors participate and many different roads are tested.
We are definitely talking about teamwork, where "all good powers" are welcome. School and library working together are in focus. Teachers and librarians are the closest partners with the ability to make happy readers out of all the children in the class. Booksellers can make a valuable contribution in the way we have shown in A BOOK FOR EVERY CHILD.
For the booksellers - a long-term engagement
Swedish booksellers have taken on important tasks in the networks promoting literature and reading. Many have engaged themselves in the reading promotion for children and youth. Special low price campaigns have made children's books easier available. The reduction of Swedish VAT from 25 to 6% has certainly had positive effects.
The focus on children and youth in A BOOK FOR EVERY CHILD has been successful. The Book-in-Sweden Foundation hopes to be able to finance the project for at least a couple of more years. The annual budget for the last years has been around 500 000 SEK (55 000 EURO) in addition to the discounts given by the participating bookshops.