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Leipzig Recommendations on Early Literacy Education

The international conference “Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Edu­ca­ti­on” of experts held from March 12th to 14th2013 in Leipzig recognized the UNESCO de­fi­ni­ti­on on literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, com­pute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy in­volves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their know­ledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

130 participants from over 35 different countries developed a whole set of re­com­men­da­ti­ons on how to improve Early Literacy Education (ELE). Based on the assumption that ELE is a pre­requisite for any kind of skill acquisition, one has to acknowledge that early literacy is more than learning the alphabet.

Having considered all aspects of ELE, the Conference “Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Education” calls for the full involvement of all relevant partners:

Politicians and Policy Makers:

  • Poor literacy skills lead to impoverished lives and have an economic impact on countries. There is a need to break the vicious circle that passes illiteracy from generation to ge­ne­ra­ti­on. A central task for politicians and policy makers is to embed ELE programs into their edu­cation and social systems.
  • Politicians must ensure appropriate and long-lasting financial resources for all necessary partners, including, of course, libraries.
  • ELE needs a cross-departmental approach, becoming part of the remit of several mi­ni­stries such as those responsible for health, education and social issues.
  • Those involved in ELE policy-making must be aware that many policies will need up to 20 years to embed and develop; thus ELE must be planned independently of legislation pe­ri­ods.

Donors and Fund Raisers:

  • We must make the case to decision makers and funders that ELE is crucial for education and society and that investment will yield long-term returns.
  • ELE work must be broadened by strengthening networks and gaining access to target groups through all, even non-educational institutions.
  • The economic relevance of early childhood makes it a core interest of companies, cor­po­ra­tions, employers’ organizations and others in the private sector who may sponsor and sup­port ELE and so invest in children and their education.

Professionals:

  • There is a need for co-operation and interaction between all involved in ELE whatever the gaps between social and educational levels.
  • Early childhood teachers, librarians and other professionals have a huge responsibility; we expect from them the highest standards and in return they must be paid appropriately. Only then can we create, keep and cultivate motivation and quality.
  • Libraries play a crucial role in ELE and should be welcoming places giving space and re­sour­ces to families, including the very youngest children. The training of librarians must re­flect their growing role in ELE.
  • Training of professionals should adapt new technologies to the needs in early childhood edu­cation. This means including research and development of media literacy and digital li­teracy into training programs.

Volunteers:

  • Early literacy education is a task for the entire society. The responsibility cannot be pas­sed on fully to families and educational institutions. This means strengthening the role of vo­lunteers.
  • The integration of volunteers should not be perceived as an economic substitute for pro­fes­sionals. Their work is complementary and supplementary to formal education.
  • The value of volunteers lies in their ability to talk to target groups too often out of the reach of official channels. Honoraries should be trained and supported in their dealings with these hard-to-reach families.
  • Volunteers bring personal commitment, and motivation to ELE. Training will strengthen their role and give impact to their work.

Families:

  • Parents and carers are a child’s first teachers, thus their integration into ELE programs is cen­tral to their success. Outside institutions alone will not do the job.
  • ELE has to begin as early as the birth of the child within the families. The popular un­der­stan­ding of “early” is not early enough. ELE within families should permanently focus on child­ren’s perspectives and take into account the needs, interests, and developmental level of the child.
    Empowering parents and carers must be a central task in improving literacy. This means rai­sing awareness of themselves as role models in using language, communication and me­dia, and encouraging them to be active in helping their children learn more about language and literacy by talking with their children and reading aloud to them every day.
  • Parents should be empowered to provide a home rich in words and stories, and to inspire child­ren to speak, to sing, to play, to move and to communicate. According to the cultural and social parameters in different countries, this should include all media used in the fa­mi­lies and their surroundings.

Society:

  • Reading promotion needs awareness in all parts of society: politics, economy including cam­paigning at a large scale. Campaigning needs a wide range of partners and a defined be­nefit for all.
  • Networks among health care institutions, social organizations, marginalized groups, chur­ches etc. can provide multidimensional accesses to education, especially for dis­ad­van­taged environments.
  • Multilingualism is an asset that should be encouraged and celebrated.
  • There is a need to widen public knowledge and willingness to take the issues of ELE by using celebrities of stage, screen music and sport as role models.

Researchers:

  • ELE is an interdisciplinary issue, for which various scientific perspectives need to be co­ope­rating to achieve a common goal: Economics, Neurosciences, Psychology, Educational and Social Sciences, Media Sciences including research on digital literacy.
  • Stronger bonds and meaningful connections between research and programs are needed. Re­search must be applied to overcome the Knowing-Doing-Gap. With regards to in­ter­ven­ti­on, this means that studies of effects have to be directly aimed at the optimization of programs. More evaluations need to be published and to be publicly discussed.
  • In­vestigations of effects on literacy interventions have to be equipped with enough re­sour­ces and must be implemented over a longer period of time, whichthen allows the measurement of long-term effects. It is only then possible to also prove and to estimate the na­tional economic return of the literacy promotion in this way.
  • Research on ELE needs standards within and among countries. This is why studies should deal with comparable indicators. This needs an exchange as much as possible between researchers and practitioners involved in ELE programs.

In conclusion, ELE is everyone’s responsibility. It has to start at the beginning of a child’s life, to reach out to all children and to lead on to more advanced forms of literacy de­ve­lop­ment. ELE is about our countries’ futures.

  • Everyone means families, professionals, governmental institutions as well as others without an obvious connection to ELE – such as celebrities, media, volunteers, and non-governmental organizations so as to align efforts of all groups in society. This is in accordance with the recommendations of the EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy (2012).
    Successful ELE will eventually lead to economic prosperity, to an increase of GDP and more importantly will enrich individual lives. Political commitment is needed in terms of an inclusion in the rhetoric of societal debate, leading to sustainable financial and ideo­lo­gi­cal support (public, private and academic).
  • Awareness of ELE needs to be widely disseminated; in accordance with the theory and prac­tice debated at the conference “Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Edu­cation”.

Leipzig, March 2013

 
 

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Leipzig Recommendations 2013

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