The month of April 2017 marks the fourth year of “Read to me!” (Čitaj mi!), the first Croatian national campaign promoting reading aloud to children. The 4th anniversary of the campaign has conveniently coincided with the Children’s Good Book Week organised by the City Library Rijeka (GKR), reported Novi list on April 25th, 2017. Both manifestations aim to highlight the importance of reading aloud to children from the earliest age, and judging by the high attendance rate at all programmes, the necessity for more similar initiatives is evident.
It’s believed that literacy starts developing soon after the child is born, if the child is surrounded with adequate materials and persons who will motivate the development of literacy. Whether those people are parents, family members, friends or educators, the most important thing is for them to ensure that the child has access to picture-books from the earliest age, followed by age-appropriate literature as the child grows up. The act of reading aloud also helps to create emotional bonds between parents and children as a result of quality time they spend together.
The campaign manifest states the project was launched with the aim to promote early literacy and to make reading aloud a part of daily routine in Croatian families with small children. One of the campaign goals is to make library services for babies and small children a part of regular services in public libraries, a worthy effort supported by ongoing programmes in GKR such as „Shhh… Story time!“.
„We organised the first event of reading aloud to children in the city library 20 years ago, as a part of Croatian Book Month and in collaboration with the Faculty of Teacher Education“, said Verena Tibljaš, programme coordinator at GKR. Those first events were an effort of five student volunteers who brought together the act of storytelling and their creative talents, enriching the programme with music and visual arts. Apart from its crucial role in encouraging early literacy, the ongoing programme of reading aloud to the youngest library visitors in GKR also represents valuable experience for Teacher Education students.
As a result of the campaign, the period from 2013 to 2017 has seen an increase in the number of young library members, but also a number of praiseworthy projects and actions such as organised book donations to pediatric clinics, hospitals and other institutions for children.