Early literacy is considered important for integration © BMBF/Stiftung Lesen/Hans Joachim Rickel
Early literacy is considered important for integration © BMBF/Stiftung Lesen/Hans Joachim Rickel

A nation-wide program to promote reading among newly arrived refugee children in Germany has received a boost. The government is extending the program which it says helps pave the way to successful integration.

The German education ministry and a non-profit organization, Stiftung Lesen (Reading Foundation), have announced that the program "Lesestart für Flüchtlingskinder" (reading for refugee children) will be extended for another three years, at a cost of 1.6 million euros.

The program was initially set up in 2015 with the aim of giving refugee children early access to books and reading and to help the process of integration.

Linguistic skills and motivation to read are key to the integration of refugees.
_ Lesestart für Flüchtlingskinder

"Lesen bringt uns weiter" (Reading takes us further) will continue to be offered for free in asylum reception centers in Germany. Every refugee child of preschool age receives a bag containing a picture book and information (in one of 17 languages) for their parents.

In addition, each year, the reception centers get a set of reading and media materials, including about 45 easy books and games.

This year the focus of the program will shift to concentrate more on help for the helpers. Staff and volunteers in reception centers will be offered professional training seminars, giving them ideas about how to use the Lesestart materials and to make the most of the reading and play sessions with the refugee children.

© Stiftung Lesen

© Stiftung Lesen

High demand in asylum centers

In the first half of 2018, German authorities received 96,600 new applications for asylum. According to UNICEF estimates, around 15,000 of those were for children under 6 years old.

Ten tips for reading to refugee children (from Stiftung Lesen)

  1. Find yourself a nice big comfortable space with peace and quiet.
  2. Start with small groups or individual children.
  3. Sit everyone down in a semicircle so that you have eye-contact with them.
  4. Choose books with big pictures and not too many words.
  5. Be well-prepared – read the book ahead of time so that you know which parts to skip or simplify if necessary.
  6. Choose exciting subjects that children are interested in – animals, colors, numbers, seasons or topics they have come across in the media.
  7. If you are reading to children who understand little or no German, you can use singing, dancing or drawing to help communicate the story.
  8. Using simple objects and materials that go with the story can help make it more accessible to children.
  9. Try to keep reading sessions to a maximum of 20 minutes: The younger the child, the shorter their concentration span. Children love repetition, so you can read one short book several times.
  10. Trust, time, and enjoyment are the basics of reading success.


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