Germany’s Börsenverein Joins Urgent Calls for a ‘National Reading Plan’

In News by Porter Anderson

The publishers and booksellers of Germany are calling for an urgent, coordinated ‘National Reading Plan’ to combat educational shortfalls.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: LeManna

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Kraus vom Cleff: A ‘Downward Trend in Literacy’
Among many of the effects of the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, educational systems in many, perhaps most of the international book publishing markets we cover are struggling with challenges following wrenching disruptions in process, curricula, family life, and students’ development.

Today (January 19), the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, has issued a statement of solidarity with efforts to address what’s seen as a crisis in that nation.

The educational system, the Börsenverein says in its message to the news media, “is in a state of upheaval: many shockingly bad educational studies are followed by a sobering picture from the school barometer.”

That’s a reference to a newly published annual study, a “barometer,” from the Robert Bosch Foundation in which, as reported by our colleagues in the German press, finds 67 percent of principals saying that a lack of staffing has become their schools’ greatest challenge.

An eye-opening 80 percent of schools with students in “socially difficult situations” are reporting staff shortages, with 22 percent citing inadequate technical equipment, 20 percent of principals citing too heavy a workload, and 59 percent of administrators saying that newly arrived immigrant children aren’t getting the support they need.

“Reading is essential for a self-determined future for each individual, for social participation, and for democratic cohesion.”Peter Kraus vom Cleff

“The representative survey of teachers on current challenges in schools,” says the Börsenverein, “shows that the weaknesses in the education system are clearly noticeable for teachers, who see themselves increasingly exposed to a burden that urgently needs to be reduced through pre-school and extra-curricular measures, and in some cases even compensated for.”

As a result, the association, in concert with the Stiftung Lesen, the Reading Foundation, is issuing a call for what it describes as a well thought-out, nationwide cooperative program of response, as opposed to what’s perceived at the moment as a patchwork of “isolated solutions.”

“The basis for this has already been created by the ‘National Reading Pact’ initiative, the publishers and booksellers say. What must follow is “a clear roadmap for reading promotion, [a plan] to be implemented nationwide.”

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Peter Kraus vom Cleff is the general manager of the Börsenverein, and in a statement today, he says, “The increase in learning deficits and the downward trend in literacy are alarming. They reveal an urgent need for action.

“At the same time, they make it clear that individual measures will not lead to the necessary turnaround. Education partners and politicians must bundle existing offers into an effective, nationwide strategy. That’s why we need a National Reading Plan and will be actively involved in it.

“After all, a lack of reading skills burdens many children and young people throughout their school years and significantly impedes their entry into their later professional life. At the same time, reading as an educational skill involves far more than improving equal opportunities in the educational system. Reading is essential for a self-determined future for each individual, for social participation, and for democratic cohesion.”

Kraus vom Cleff is joined today by Jörg F. Maas, general manager of the Reading Foundation, who says, “The imbalance in the school system is falling at everyone’s feet. This is shown by educational studies, this is shown by the school barometer, and this is also shown by the struggle for proposed solutions in the KMK.”

Jörg F. Maas

His reference is to the Kultusministerkonferenz, the conference of ministers of education from the states of Germany, a consortium created in its original form in 1948.

“We need to start thinking together and holistically,” Maas says.

“As a foundation and part of the National Reading Pact, we are a neutral authority and offer ourselves as a sparring partner. Reading is the foundation for the entire educational path, and too many children and young people are currently almost systematically denied this foundation in our education system.

“Our declared goal for 2023: Together with the important educational partners, we are developing a national reading plan based on well-founded results and measures, which can be implemented nationwide and which will really help us advance.”

As the program develops, we’ll hope to learn more about its approach. The potential is there, of course, for the German ‘National Reading Plan’ to be something our international readership in the far-flung markets of the world publishing industry can adapt and apply to elements of their own responses to educational challenges, particularly in literacy.

More on the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels is here, more on education and publishing is here, more on literacy is here, and more on the German book publishing market is here.

More from us on the impact of the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic—which factors into this story on education in Germany—is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.