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European Leaders Called On To Recognise The Ability To Read As Essential For The Protection Of Democracy

European Leaders Called On To Recognise The Ability To Read As Essential For The Protection Of Democracy

EURead, a coalition of 34 of the continent’s most influential organisations committed to reading and literacy, has called on Europe’s leaders to recognise the ability to read as a fundamental human right and as essential to the protection of democracy.

EURead’s six-point statement draws on evidence which shows the widespread impact of being able to read and reading regularly on the ability of individual citizens to fulfil their potential, participate in society and identify disinformation. The statement also calls for further investment in book gifting programmes for families with young children, school and public libraries and in reading promotion as being essential for the development of critically literate citizens.

In launching the Statement on Reading and Literacy, Dr Jörg F. Maas, Chair of EU Read, said:

“The contribution of reading to the defence of democracy and the functioning of society in so many different ways is grossly underestimated. Ensuring that the citizens of Europe can not only read, but can read critically and love reading is fundamental to sustaining European values for future generations.

“Governments at regional, national and pan-European level must take action but so must a wide range of other social actors. Reading is not just an issue for ministries of education and culture but for everyone who cares about the future of Europe. We must come together to promote reading and literacy also for the economic and humane development of our societies.”

EURead Statement on Reading and Literacy

We, the member organisations of EURead representing 34 state, NGO and publishing bodies from 23 countries across the continent call on European leaders at regional, national and supranational level to recognise the foundational role that reading plays in the development of individual citizens, in the operation of a thriving economy and in helping to ensure the functioning of modern democracies.

We are specifically calling for recognition of and action on the following principles.

1. The ability to read and to read critically is essential to personal development and a fundamental human right

It is widely evidenced that reading regularly for pleasure improves mental health and well-being, correlates with achievement across the curriculum, improves social mobility and enables participation in society. PISA defines reading as “understanding, using, reflecting on, and engaging with written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, develop one’s knowledge and potential, and participate in society.” Because of its widespread impact on individuals’ lives, learning to read and to love reading is a fundamental right.

2. The ability to read underpins the functioning of our society in many dimensions and, as such, is everyone’s concern.

Having citizens who can read to the best of their ability can improve economic performance, enable better health outcomes, enhance social mobility and improve social cohesion. Making sure that the citizens of Europe are regular readers is a matter of concern for a wide variety of state and non-state actors outside the confines of the education and culture sectors. This includes organisations active in the business and commercial world, healthcare and regional development sectors amongst others.

3. Having citizens who can read critically is essential if we are to protect our democracies.

In an era of disinformation, the ability to interpret information and assess the credibility of statements is essential to the functioning of modern democracies. The promotion of high levels of critical literacy should be a priority for governments and for EU members should form part of the Defence of Democracy package.

4. Reading needs to be part of family life from a child’s earliest days and governments should further invest in Early Years book gifting programmes.

There is widespread scientific evidence of the importance of the first 1000 days for a child’s development and further evidence of the critical role that reading with young children can play in language acquisition and emotional attachment with their parent or carer. We know that children who are read to when young are more likely to go on to read themselves later. We believe that no child should miss out on the opportunity this presents and that government should further invest in well-evidenced book gifting programmes. Book gifting programmes should form part of the European Child Guarantee.

5. Access to a wide range of books, for example through kindergartens, school libraries and through libraries in the community, staffed by skilled librarians, is essential to fostering a love of reading and needs financial support.

Every citizen of a European country from birth onwards would benefit from access to diverse reading materials of all kinds and in different formats as this helps the acquisition and maintenance of regular reading habits. Having school and community libraries, staffed by information professionals who can help people discover books they will love, is a critical part of our reading infrastructure.

6. Reading promotion by a wide range of players needs to be supported.

People need encouragement to read, and this is particularly true for those who have the most to gain from reading regularly. Reading promotion programmes which draw on the expertise of the state and NGOs as well as the intellectual capital of authors, illustrators, publishers and booksellers require sustained investment over time in order to effect changes in behaviour. Whilst these actors may lead on promotional activity, it is the responsibility of every element of society to signal that reading is something which is highly valued.

About EURead

Founded in 2000, EURead is a consortium of 34 organizations from 23 European countries from in and outside the EU which works to exchange knowledge and expertise on reading promotion and to campaign for more widespread understanding of the importance of reading for society. The network includes some of the most influential organizations dedicated to literacy and reading in Europe.

Among the network’s implemented initiatives and projects are the campaign “Europe Reads” to promote literacy, the Global Network for Early Years Bookgifting, The Researchers Network; participation in panels addressing reading issues, functional and media literacy at book fairs in Bologna and Frankfurt, and involvement in the European Commission conferences for the first and second “Day of European Authors”.