Children’s Reading Days have proved that children in the Czech Republic are frequent and enthusiastic readers.
The challenge proposed by the Growing with the Book campaign was taken up by a surprisingly large number of schools and preschools, reading clubs, libraries, leisure-time centres and individuals – so many, in fact, that for a moment we were literally overwhelmed. Every participating organisation held a small or large event during which books were read out loud.
Over 10,000 participants have been involved, with 6,650 children participating as active readers and the audiences consisting of another 3,600 of their friends, schoolmates, seniors, adults and passers-by – toys and pets were excluded from the total number.
The period between two major literary feats – 23 April (World Book and Copyright Day) and 9 May (start of Book World Prague 2019, 25th annual book fair and literary festival) – was therefore marked by nationwide reading sessions held in almost every town and village, on trains connecting them, and at every other imaginable venue. No kidding! We really did receive a photo from a reading taking place at a toilet. Countless other pictures were taken at children’s bedsides, with most readers gathering at schools, libraries, reading clubs, but also outdoors in the nature, in senior homes, kitchens, a mayor’s office (whose rightful owner was prevented from escaping) or at a painting exhibition.
Some teachers’ enthusiasm in getting their students involved would really deserve a medal. There were children in many places in the Czech Republic who organised their event according to their own plans and designs in a highly professional way (from communicating with the audiences, the division of roles, artistic design, making a video, all the way to refreshments). Of course, no reading from the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be complete without a chocolate tasting!
Our main focus, however, was to draw attention to the fact that reading abilities are by no means a given and that even in present-day Europe there are 73 million adults who do not possess literary skills. It is clear, however, that Czech children will not be among them.
We were informed that reading performances were a regular activity in a large number of schools. Many school children visit preschools where they read a bedtime fairy tale to their young friends, or go to the closest senior home to bring reading joy to elderly ladies and gentlemen. Joint library visits are frequently a staple (often more regular than preventive visits to the dentists) and children take a book to their bed as naturally as they reach for the socks in the morning. Many schools and classes joined in the Children’s Reading Days with their own well-established activities – obviously reading is nothing new to them.
A challenge, then, should be a real challenge! In many places children intensified their normal reading activities and they would read both to one another and to pretty much everyone else that would listen every single day between 23 April and 9 May.
Often the children’s reading was directed at school employees – at many venues the audiences consisted of the cleaning ladies, janitors, cooks, school masters and all the teachers, listening to, among other, Charles Gilman’s Professor Gargoyle. When no human audiences were available, there was a dog or a battery of toys listening. It is also possible to read to your own reflection in the mirror! Every reader taking part is of immense value and importance to us – even reading to yourself instead of an audience merits our special bookmark. The three most inspirational events received a box containing 15 kilograms of books from the Growing with the Book campaign.
We are very happy that the Children’s Reading Days are by no means over with our challenge. The experience has led the students in Úšovice, among other, to read to seniors they had visited during the event every Wednesday at 1 pm on regular basis. We hope we have started a tradition and would like to repeat Children’s Reading Days again in 2020.
This year, it is safe to claim that within the Europe Reads campaign, of which Children’s Reading Days form a part, we have provided ample proof that the Czech Republic is by no means indifferent when it comes to reading.