”Children and Young Adult Jury” National Reading Promotion Program
”Children and Young Adult Jury” is the reading promotion program in Latvia, which is aimed at creating the platform of strong reading culture for young generation. Latvian experience in this field is mentioned on the list of the best European reading promotion projects. It was initiated in Latvia in 2001 and celebrates its 15 years of successful running. The main goals of the program are to promote the interest in reading among children and teenagers, establish reading promotion network in Latvia and Latvian centers abroad, encourage children and young adults to share thoughts about books and promote the distribution of good literature. The main tasks of the program are to select recently issued books to renew the book collection, distribute book collection to libraries, which are involved in the project, motivate and educate librarians in reading promotion activities, develop discussions about books online, establish „Children and Young Adult Jury” network in the country. Central idea of the program is that increasing reading skills among children and young adults will rise the quality of their future lives, improve their intellectual capacity and competitiveness.
The program is implemented in the following way: in the beginning of the year a group of experts (from the field of children’s literature, sociology, pedagogy) selects books for the „Children and Young Adult Jury”. Selected books are divided into five segments according to the readers’ age: 5+; 9+ ; 11+ ; 15+ ; Parents Jury. 10 criteria are applied for the „Children and Young Adult Jury” book selection: 1.Books by local authors from the previous years; 2.Outstanding translations from all over the world; 3.Picture books for the youngest; 4.Comics or publications that are original in their approach; 5.Science fiction books; 6.Books for boys; 7.Books for girls; 8.Poetry (one book for each age group); 9. Children literature classics or favourite books of parents and grandparents generations; 10.Books that concern essential questions, which are relevant for the young adult group. Every member of „Children and Young Adult Jury” should read (in specified period of time: normally in 8 or 9 months) at least 5 books from his/her age segment. After books are read, every member of the groups is called to fill in the „Children and Young Adult Jury” form, where they are asked to answer questions about the books. Traditionally at the beginning of March the Big Reading Festival is taking place as a closing event of the reading marathon organized by the National Library of Latvia Children Literature center specialists. Festival of reading gathers over 700 readers from all over the country in the capital Riga. Reading promotion program „Children and Young Adult Jury” is run by specialists from Children Literature Center of the National Library of Latvia in collaboration with regional curators and specialists from public and school libraries.
Programme aiming at stimulating the enjoyment of reading among children and youth; show respect for children's choice; introduce an award in literature where children determine the winner; develop collaboration at national level to support local reading encouragement activities; emphasise advantages of being a good reader; provide children with latest literature and opportunities to spend their leisure time effectively.
Since the beginning of its implementation the program has received around 900 K EUR financing from the state budget. In total, the program has attracted up to 3.2 million EUR financing. Every 1 EUR given by government to support the program is usually matched by 2.5 EUR from local authorities and contributors.
Since 2001, when “Children’s Jury” – a program that purposefully consolidates government and municipality financial support for reading promotion – was created and implemented for the first time, the improvement of children’s literacy and development of children’s literature in Latvia has been substantial. About 15-17K kids become active readers every year in Latvia and in Latvian Diaspora centers abroad. Up to 700 libraries take part in the program annually. From the very beginnings “Children and Young Adults Jury” works according to simple, easy-to-understand principles – step by step involving its participants into reading, discussing and evaluating different books that develops critical thinking together with reading and writing skills. When the new year starts, professional jury chooses good and exciting books for the program. Experts have good knowledge of children’s literature and are aware of the social issues of reading. The local and the Big Reading Celebration are special events organized for the closure of the program that usually happens during Baltic Book Fair in spring. Around 700-800 children and their parents from all over Latvia take part in these activities where the authors, illustrators, translators and publishers of the most popular books receive big media attention. Children get a chance to express their opinions about the books and listen to popular musicians. For many years the program has been receiving positive feedback from participants and literacy professionals. International Board of Books for Young People of the Netherlands has been a supporter of these activities by providing funding as well as disseminating information. Reading promotion is a long-term investment and needs continuous improvement to be sure the positive trends are permanent and every year brings something new on offer. This program provides not only statistical increase of library clients but also increase of reading skills and competence.