In Germany: A Nationwide Reading Competition Offers New Advice

In News by Porter Anderson

From Germany’s Reading Monitor 2023: Families read aloud together more when children ask their parents for it.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Carpinxo

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

‘Children Are the Key to Encouraging Parents To Read Aloud’
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the German book industry has been particularly prompt in assessing and addressing what appears to be lagging reading skills among schoolchildren.

One of the areas in which German specialists appear to agree with the experts behind Scholastic’s “Kids & Family Reading” report series has been in the importance of reading aloud in the family setting.

But one of the most intriguing things coming out of today’s data is that it’s actually the kids, rather than the parents, who may be the answer to getting more reading aloud into place as a family habit. Commonly, many of us might think that this is something that requires parents to remind children. On the contrary, “children are the key,” we’re told

According to data from Germany’s 2023 “Reading Monitor” evaluation, we’re told today (January 31), “More than a third of parents rarely or never read to their children, but according to the study, the chances of families reading to them increase many times over, among other things, through actions that focus on reading.

Messaging the news media today, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, writes, “One of the largest campaigns is the nationwide reading competition” in Germany, “in which more than 500,000 students from sixth grade took part in this round.

“Children are the key to encouraging parents to read aloud: in families where reading is rare, half of the time [children] take the initiative. “Reading Monitor 2023, Germany

Here is the text from the Börsenverein that some of our readers may find both remarkable and hopeful. The emphasis is ours:

“Children are the key to encouraging parents to read aloud: in families where reading is rare, half of the time [children] take the initiative.

“For example, the children participating in the reading competition practice reading with their families in preparation. Because children are curious about the world, love to explore their environment and, above all, are looking for a challenge.

“The reading competition, as the largest and oldest reading promotion campaign in Germany, offers an incentive for children to actively experience reading and reading aloud, lets them playfully explore the world of books, and challenges them by competing in reading to each other.”

That reading competition is being organized for the 65th time, no less, by the Book Culture and Reading Promotion Foundation of the Börsenverein in association with schools, bookstores, libraries, and many volunteers and sponsors.

Recommendations Include the SDG Book Club Collection

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Rom Rodinka

Starting Thursday (February 1), some 6,900 students nationwide, are taking part in more than 650 regional chapters, and these numbers are very high: they’re fully back to levels seen before the advent of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. This is a competition structured in tiers, so that competition stages occur at city, district, and state levels.

Finally, on July 19, Germany’s 16 state winners face off in Berlin for the final test, an event produced by Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) and streamed by the ARD media library, which is familiar to Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20) professional visitors who have encountered ARD’s public-television network operations at the world’s largest trade fair.

One component of the program is a ready bank of reading recommendations, including all the books that are given away to children who are participating in the various levels of the Germany-wide competition. You can see these Buchempfehlungen—book recommendations—here.

In fact, these recommendations include one of the collections of children’s world literature best known to Publishing Perspectives readers: The SDG Book Club, that program from the United Nations and the International Publishers Association (IPA) which has pinpointed books especially good for kids in familiarizing them with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. Have a look here to see the specific SDG Book Club recommendations on the Buchempfehlungen site.

On this page, you can see the progress of Germany’s various reading competition stages, currently working its way into the district competitions for those regional challenges.

The competition was created in 1959 by Erich Kästner and today is the country’s largest reading-promotion campaign.

And one of the most valuable things to come out of it already this year is the finding from the pre-competition study that the real driver of family reading aloud is the children asking for it.

Tell a kid to ask.

In a Jakarta park, a father reads with his sons. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Heeri Kurniawan


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 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 (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.