„Ion Creangă” National Children’s Library
Progress Foundation Romania
In Romania, the dropout rate is 26.6% in rural areas and 18.1% in total, compared to an average of 10.6% in the European Union, and places penultimate in the PISA tests in 2018. In order to be economically competitive, at the level of the 21st century, Romania must improve the school performance of children. Literacy has proven to be the clearest predictor of school success, and early education the most effective investment.
In poor communities, children do not have access to age-appropriate books, already experiencing an educational gap, even before starting kindergarten or school. Combining the training of teachers and parents, quality educational resources and a network of teachers, leads to very good results in terms of the level of preparation of children to start primary school.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added another obstacle to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, where access to online learning is non-existent or limited and has widened the educational gap.
The “two-book bag” offers parents from disadvantaged communities illustrated books for home, encouraging them to read to their children.
The pilot project, funded by Kaufland and implemented since 2019, was designed to educate poor parents on the benefits of reading with their little ones. Over 60 kindergarten teachers from Vrancea and Neamț counties participated in two training sessions and then organized in turn reading sessions for parents and young children in their kindergartens. Each participating teacher received a trainer kit and, on average, 5 “Two-bag bag” kits to offer to parents.
Volunteers (librarians, educators, teachers, social workers etc.) organized reading sessions with 1-2 years old children and their parents. After reading sessions, each child receives a bag with two picture books and a small toy suitable for this age category. Volunteers talk to parents about the advantages of reading aloud activities with children from the yearly age, encouraging them to read to children.
As a result of the project, 475 children together with parents have participated at reading sessions and have got picture books to take home; about 600 books donated to families from disadvantaged communities and 375 books were planned to be donated in February 2021. The project involved 100 volunteers (librarians) from 100 localitie, with more than 100 reading sessions organized.
Volunteers have been trained by OvidiuRo Association and „Ion Creangă” National Children’s Library on how to organize reading aloud sessions with small kids.
Parents have been told by the volunteers about the advantages of reading aloud to children from the early age and encouraged to read to children.
At the second reading of the book “From head to toe”, children had already begun to imitate the movements of animals. Parents showed interest and openness during the meetings; the atmosphere was relaxing, pleasant, constructive. We definitely produced some changes in the relationship with the children. Thanks for the opportunity! ” Mariana Vrabie, preschool teacher, Bălan Kindergarten, Harghita