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Read to Me: A Campaign to Make Reading a Regular, Family Routine Across Croatia

By Marina Meić
 | Jun 05, 2019
lt366-croatia2-ldThe Croatian Reading Association (CroRa), an affiliate of the International Literacy Association, was established in 1991. Since then, CroRa has participated in many campaigns that advocate for reading and literacy. One of them—the biggest such campaign in Croatia—is Read to Me!, which started in 2013.

Read to Me! is coorganized with the Croatian Library Association - Children and Youth Services Commission, Croatian Paediatric Society, and the Croatian Association of Researchers in Children's Literature, with support from UNICEF.
 
Read to Me! aims to encourage families, caregivers, and other adults to start reading to children as soon as they are born. In that way, reading can become a part of their daily routine. It also helps create special emotional bonds. The aim of the campaign is to include all families and children and to make reading for at least 15 minutes a day a habit. 

The campaign also aims to encourage families with young children to come 
to their local library as soon as possible. There they will get information on early read-aloud benefits, how and when to start reading to children, lists of quality picture books, and how to choose age­-appropriate books. Picture books are typically the first contact a child has with literature and the written word in general, which is why paying special attention to the quality of picture books is so important. 

The Read to Me! campaign sends the message that picture books should take precedence when choosing toys from the earliest age, and that families and caregivers can change the lives of their children by their own example by fostering good reading habits. In addition to the family, children's libraries, preschools, and pediatricians are viewed as key factors affecting the development  of early and family literacy. One of the campaign's aims is to encourage cooperation among libraries, kindergartens, and doctor's offices to raise awareness of their institution's important role in creating a culture of reading. 

Over the past six years, there have been more than 1,000 events organized as part of the campaign, and more than 50,000 children have participated. The campaign has included picture book exhibitions; read-alouds in public libraries, squares, pediatrician's offices, and children's hospitals; and presentations for families about the importance of reading to children. Many activities have also involved local celebrities and well-known leaders ­including actors, singers, writers, and doctors. Stories and books have traveled in bookmobiles around the country to places where children don't have library access. 

The first anniversary of Read to Me! was celebrated on International Children's Book Day, April 2, 2014, in the Cvrcak kindergarten, with a play in which the campaign organizers, actors, and children presented in a fun way the excellent results of 
the campaign, which has united the whole country with the aim of making reading a daily habit for all families. Every year, the campaign continues to celebrate its birthday in a different town in Croatia. 

Through this campaign, CroRa also celebrates International Book Giving Day each February 14 with an activity called I Read, I Give, and I'm Very Happy. People are invited to donate picture books to libraries, which then forward the books to children's hospitals, foster homes, children's SOS villages, and other charity organizations. In the last three years more than 9,000 picture books have been distributed across Croatia. 

Thousands upon thousands of children and families have been impacted by this campaign in the past six years, and we look forward to seeing the campaign's impact continue to grow in the years to come. 

For more information about Read to Me!, visit citajmi.info/uvodna.

Marina Meić, a new ILA member, is a Montessori educator and vice president of the Croatian Reading Association's Split branch. She is an ILA 2019 30 Under 30 honoree. 

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