The project BOKTRAS is based on
cooperation between public libraries and kindergartens, the aim being to introduce young children to literature.
By setting up branch libraries in kindergartens the libraries involved reach out to more families than those who already know about and make use of library services.
In this way family access to children’s books is no longer restricted by pressures of time, distance to the nearest library or opening hours. The libraries use the kindergarten as an arena for the active promotion of literature, thereby helping to develop the children’s language and social skills.
BOKTRAS is a 3-year project. The National Centre for Reading Education and Research at the University of Stavanger and the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority are project originators and participants. Three public libraries and seven kindergartens from three municipalities take part in the project, carrying out and testing various initiatives.
A culture of reading
The main objective of BOKTRAS is to create a culture of reading in kindergartens through cooperation with libraries. Secondary objectives include – strengthening kindergarten efforts to stimulate language skills through reading activities
- providing access to new and relevant literature by setting up branch libraries within the kindergartens
- encouraging reading habits among children and their parents
- increasing the awareness among adults of the importance of reading activities
The kindergartens participating provide the facilities for activities and arenas to encourage linguistic interplay, such as reading aloud, storytelling, conversation, word games, jingles and others. Culture for reading requires a balance between adult initiatives and those taken by the children themselves. All the children take part in these activities.
One of the most important activities is reading aloud. This provides children of different backgrounds, reading experience and verbal skills with a shared experience and a common point of reference. Reading aloud has a strong language-stimulating effect, while at the same time giving pleasure both to the listeners and to the reader.
Shared reading experiences offer a concrete, unifying starting point for conversation with children.When children talk about books, they use their own experience in order to understand the text. Talking together is activating and stimulating because it encourages the children to think aloud and become more aware of language. Both the reading aloud and the subsequent talking together provide children with a useful pattern for their own use of words. In addition they acquire experience in the ‘rules of conversation.
Linguistic, cultural and social skills
Systematic language stimulation in kindergartens is central to a child’s early learning to read. The tradition has been for language activities to be a voluntary and occasional event in competition with other activities. Children tend to choose the activity they are best at and which appears most meaningful to them. Those who already possess good language skills are more likely to choose to participate in reading activities than those whose command of language is less developed. This gives a considerable advantage to those children who feel at home with books and happily choose reading in contrast to those who reject this activity.
According to Wagner (Bok i bruk i barnehagen 2007, page 44) research shows that a good language environment in kindergartens is important. It can help to balance out social differences between children because “children with reading problems tend to read very little, have less contact with the written word than others and consequently tend to fall further and further behind.”
In a social context it is of fundamental importance to understand others and to be understood. Children learn language among themselves through play and interaction but it is up to adults to create and supervise the activities and arenas necessary to develop and improve these language skills. In BOKTRAS kindergarten personnel, librarians and parents use literature to improve the language skills of all the children.
Reading provides room for new experiences, play and learning. Reading activities help to develop a child’s linguistic, cultural and social skills. Literature can give children a feeling of identity and self-recognition. It can lead to a greater understanding of the world around and to the development of tolerance and empathy. Reading is important for increased self-confidence when dealing with text and language. A child familiar with the written word gains confidence in language as a vehicle for thoughts. Giving children the opportunity to develop good language skills at an early age is of permanent benefit to them throughout the rest of their lives.
Boys and girls
Generally girls take part in languagestimulating activities more than boys. In the BOKTRAS kindergartens, however, everybody participates in reading activities. In some cases the kindergarten divides the children into groups according to sex in order to vary their reading experiences.
Children with language difficulties
Good language is vital to a child’s social interaction with other children. Children with a poor command of language are not always easily understood by other children. They may find themselves excluded from games or given roles to play where language is less important. As a result the child may withdraw completely or perhaps deliberately ruin the game for the other children. It is very important to strengthen and improve their language skills as early as possible in order to avoid their entering a vicious circle, both linguistically and in relation to other children.
Functionally disabled children One of the kindergartens participating in the BOKRAS project has a special programme aimed at children with multifunctional disabilities. Reading activities have proved to have a positive effect on the children, many of whom now choose a book instead of a toy. Books are used in a variety of different situations and personnel can register an improvement and a positive effect. Parents of these children discover that by reading aloud they can create a positive atmosphere and that the sound of their voices has a beneficial effect.
Children’s own initiatives
BOKTRAS shows how children take the initiative to use literature in their own way. They include literature in their games, ask to be read to, read for themselves and read to others. The children create their own initiatives based on the reading activities they have participated in.When playing with other children, they adapt and develop the knowledge and experience gained from reading activities. These initiatives underline how important it is for kindergarten personnel to act as intermediaries and role models.
Families with small children
Parents represent a vital target group. By establishing their kindergarten branches, the libraries reach families which have never previously made use of library services. Books can be borrowed by both children and their parents, giving access to good literature in a place which they visit all the time.
The way ahead
BOKTRAS project still has one year to run and looks forward to making further progress. We hope to obtain more experience from kindergartens with children from ethnic minorities, and how to attract families to visit the library and be made aware of the width of services available to them. The results from BOKTRAS will be valuable to the future work of libraries in introducing literature to children of kindergarten age, throughout the country. County libraries will have a significant role to play in disseminating this knowledge and experience with a view to encouraging all the libraries in their region to establish branch libraries in their local kindergartens.
Translated by Eric Deverill