Germany: ‘IGLU’ Shows School Reading Skills Lagging

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Every fourth child leaves primary school in Germany without sufficient reading skills, per the Börsenverein’s report on the ‘IGLU’ analysis.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Rom Rodinka

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

Leveraging the ‘National Reading Pact’ in Response
A regular analytical program called the International Primary School Reading Study (IGLU) in Germany has this month announced a disturbing result: the number of primary schoolchildren in that market who cannot read to adequate levels of skill continues to increase.

There’s some irony here, in that the report from May 3 made by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, in coordination with the book wholesaler Libri found that 16- to 29-year-olds seem to be purchasing books at an accelerating rate.

The primary-school group, of course, is younger, but an uncomfortable implication here is that unless their reading skills make some progress, they may reverse the trend toward bookish consumerism that has gladdened the eye of many in the industry’s retail sector.

The new study from IGLU, carried out every five years, looked at the reading skills of some 4,600 students and encompassed data from 65 nations and regions. And as the Börsenverein puts it in its media messaging, “If you can’t read properly, chances are closed to you, first at school and then at work.”

The proportion of children who don’t have sufficient reading skills, the Börsenverein reports, “has risen significantly compared to 2016: every fourth child leaves primary school without sufficient reading skills.”

In its announcement, the publishers’ association says, “The Reading Foundation and the German Book Trade Association are calling for an immediate political and social rethink. Together with the German Book Trade Association, the Reading Foundation founded the ‘National Reading Pact.’ More than 180 partners from business, science, society, and politics have come together here to make reading promotion binding, so that educational justice can finally become a reality.”

And to that end, the initiative is striving for a nationwide package of measures,” the Börsenverein says, “that should ensure binding and uniform structures for all parties involved in reading promotion. The aim is for all children and young people in Germany to be able to read.”

‘Promoting Reading Must Have the Highest Priority’

Peter Kraus vom Cleff, general manager of the German Book Trade Association, says, “The results of the current IGLU study are alarming.

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

“They show once again how urgently we must act. Reading skills are essential for self-determined social participation and the key to a successful professional life. Thus, promoting reading is not only fundamental for the individual path through life, but for our entire democracy.

“Together with the Reading Foundation and a broad alliance from politics, business, and society, we strive for a well thought-out cooperation to improve reading skills in Germany. Because from now on, promoting reading must have the highest priority in Germany.”

As recently as January of this year, another report announced the call for a “National Reading Plan” in Germany to address the perceived reading crisis there. In the data behind that news cycle (January 19), 80 percent of schools with students in “socially difficult situations” were 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.

Now, as the new IGLU report lands, the industry and its associated educational institutions and agencies are make joint appeals for attention and serious response to what appears to be a growing problem.

Jörg F. Maas

Jörg F. Maas, general manager of the Reading Foundation, says, “It’s extremely alarming that a quarter of our primary school children cannot read properly. We urgently need to stop this downward spiral.

“In addition to the great importance of the family as role models, we need sufficient resources and capacities in day-care centers and schools. Working to promote reading has a significant educational and socio-political value. Because how well we support children in learning to read is crucial for our social, economic, political and cultural development.

“We must ensure that reading is an integral part of every child’s early childhood.

“With our ‘National Reading Pact’ initiative and our offers such as the school and voluntary work portal of the Reading Foundation, we offer constructive, sustainable solutions together with our educational partners.”


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.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (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.

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