Every year, on the third Friday in November, the organisers promote reading in a way that literally cannot be overheard: volunteers visit children’s daycare centres, schools, libraries and bookshops where they read stories to children and adults with great enthusiasm – and, of course, without payment. In the meantime, these reading sessions increasingly take place at extraordinary locations: on a big wheel at the funfair, on board trains, at the zoo, in a museum or even as an urban guerrilla version at a busy road intersection. The event set a new record in 2014 with more than 80,000 active readers, who included many politicians and celebrities as well as almost 1000 DB employees.
Dr Rüdiger Grube, CEO of Deutsche Bahn and member of the Board of Directors of the Reading Foundation, explains: “Reading books and reading to others is more than just an enjoyable thing to do in your spare time. It is the key to education and therefore essential for a successful career. To encourage even more people to read to others, the Deutsche Bahn Foundation is not only active in Germany’s National Reading Day, but also supports numerous other projects to promote reading in various age groups.” In 2015, National Reading Day will be on 20 November 2015 – you, too, can join in and register at www.vorlesetag.de.
To tie in with National Reading Day, an annual study has been conducted on the effects of reading aloud since 2007. The results provide information about reading habits in German families. In 2013, for example, the study again confirmed that in Germany, 30 per cent of families with children aged between two and eight never or rarely read stories to their children. This applies particularly to educationally disadvantaged households. The study also found that fathers read stories to their children far less frequently than mothers. In 2012, the study was entitled “Digital media – new incentives for reading aloud?” and took a look at the growing market of children’s storybook and picture book apps. It investigated the role played by smartphones, tablets and e-readers and the extent to which they encouraged parents to read to their children. One of the findings was that electronic reading options are not a miracle cure, but they do have potential as a supplement to conventional storybooks; they are particularly popular with fathers. The reading study in 2011 examined the importance of being read to for children’s development. One result revealed that regularly reading stories to young children can help prevent them from giving up on reading during puberty. What’s more, the study also proves that reading stories to children strengthens family bonds. The time spent reading together provides opportunities for talking to one another and both children and parents find this an enriching experience.
Two of the studies led to new projects by the Reading Foundation and Deutsche Bahn: the 2010 study entitled “Reading aloud and telling stories in families from migrant backgrounds” revealed that in 80 per cent of families from migrant backgrounds, parents do not or do not regularly read to their children. This led to the development of a project with boxes of books entitled “All the children of the world”. According to the results of the 2009 study “Why do fathers not read to their children?” fathers believe that reading aloud to children is important, but say that it is the mother’s ‘responsibility’. The Deutsche Bahn Foundation reacted to this by taking part in the Reading Foundation’s project entitled “My dad reads to me”. The project allows DB employees to download a new story for their children from the intranet free of charge every Friday.