Monday morning, just after nine thirty. The children who storm back to 3b at the Johann-Comenius-School Grafing after the break look around in amazement: their tables are arranged completely differently than usual. Christine Hahn, the class teacher two days a week, explains why Manuel Iglesias Lopez – “the nicest teacher there is!” – supported in German. “Today there is group work. We are doing a reading conference!”
When the “World Book Day” introduced by UNESCO in 1995 is celebrated on April 23 in numerous countries around the world, not only crime and romance novels, poetry and non-fiction books and their authors become the focus of attention. It’s also about access to reading, to that elementary cultural technique that you need in all situations in life in order to participate in everyday life. But if you want to read, you have to be able to read it fluently.
Carolin Uncertain knows how to get started here. She also teaches at the Grafinger Förderzentrum, but she is mainly responsible for classes one and two. “In the beginning, the focus is on phonological awareness – you have to train your ears, for example with rhymes,” she says. Motor exercises are also good for understanding the syllabic principle of language. “This can also be incorporated into everyday life at home: You can clap syllables, swing, jump or walk to the beat like a robot.”
Of course, the girls and boys of 3b are long past this stage. Now you put the five steps of the reading conference in the right logical order. “Read the text quietly – Take turns reading the text – Pick a question. Read them and answer – Say what the text is about – Everyone says how the text could go on” Then they sit in groups around the tables, each led by a “boss” from the student body.
The great advantage of this reading conference is that many more children are involved at the same time, as if they were being read out one after the other, explains Hahn. The students regulate and organize themselves, the teacher becomes a learning companion who only takes the children by the hand when necessary. In addition, the stress in the small group is significantly lower. And you can differentiate well with texts of different levels.
A sense of achievement for everyone
What she means quickly becomes clear when looking at the reading sheets: In one group, the story is two pages long, in the other only one. There is also a third version with the syllables marked in different colors. So everyone has a sense of achievement when reading – regardless of whether they devour “Harry Potter” like Leonie in their free time, reach for “Bibi & Tina”, let themselves be enchanted by fantasy like Lenni or prefer to choose a comic. “It’s important for children to choose their own things and let them read what interests them,” says Carolin Ungewiß, who has been going to the library regularly since the first six months of school. The second graders can then introduce each other to titles they have borrowed from there or their own books. That increases the motivation to read immensely.
Nevertheless, practice through repetition is a very important element, especially at the beginning. In order to show her students that reading the same text three times shouldn’t be tormenting them, but rather that it has a positive effect, let them run a clock. In this way, the increase in reading speed on the third pass can be measured. And: “Children who can read well also write well.” They memorize certain word images, then they no longer have to spend so much concentration on the reading process and can concentrate more on the content.
Susanne Ospelkaus is also adept at reading and writing. Because the Zornedingerin is not only an author, but also works exclusively with children in her first job as an “occupational therapist in paediatrics” – both in her own practice and at Munich hotspot schools, where she reads with children and does speech training. The experiences gained in the process have now inspired her to write the story “Once Again”. It is not only a plea for slowness, but also for an encounter on an equal footing with (little) people who have a different perspective and way of life. It is a text of great warmth and depth, which does not require any complicated sentence structures and is also accessible to those who do not have a penchant for tapeworm sentences.
Reading is good for everyone
Because the world of books can also be made palatable for these readers, Ospelkaus is convinced of that. Even more so when they are young. Reading aloud is a wonderful way to do this – by the way, experts agree, right up to a young age. “The book doesn’t have to compete with other media. Children love the closeness and undivided attention of their parents,” says Ospelkaus. It doesn’t always have to be a novel – you can also study a dictionary together, read and implement a recipe, print out a song text and sing along. There are stories about computer games and child-friendly biographies for those who are interested in “real life”. You can cut and paste comics or jokes from newspapers. Look for an audience in younger siblings, grandparents or stuffed animals to read to yourself. “You can also have books or notebooks for “special occasions” in addition to the everyday books, where it doesn’t matter if the corners are bent or stained.” For use, for example, when the child is ill or you are traveling. This is how beautiful rituals could arise.
For Christine Hahn, one of the most beautiful rituals associated with “World Book Day” is going to the bookstore. As a door opener. “We want to show the children something of the world, make them want new books, and help them overcome their fear of the unknown.” The book gift that children receive as part of World Day may also contribute to this. The publishers are the Reading Foundation, Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe, Deutsche Post and ZDF. The titles are bought by the bookstores, which then pass them on to the schoolchildren in exchange for a voucher.
This year’s volume of “I’ll give you a story” is called “Iva, Samo and the secret witch lake” and was realized according to the cradle-to-cradle principle, i.e. from completely recyclable materials. This also fits the content of Bettina Obrecht’s funny and eventful graphic novel with illustrations by Timo Grubing. Because it’s about smart water witches, environmental protection, annoying influencers, real estate speculators and unexpected new friendships. Also lots of action.
Reading makes you smart
Leonhard and Vitus from 3b missed them a bit in their story about the dream of a trip to the moon, but they have great ideas for an exciting sequel themselves. Students can also immediately answer why something like today’s reading conference is so important: “It helps to have information.” “You know what’s in the newspaper.” “You’re much smarter if you can read.”
Overall, approval of this form of teaching is very high. Reading together is nicer because it’s not so boring. The conference leaders also received a lot of praise – they took their role seriously, says the teacher, before asking the participants to address their positive comments directly to those to whom they are intended.
At the end of this reading conference, in addition to the preparation of a reading, there is also a lesson in learning with fun and dealing with partnership. What better plea could there be for community reading?!