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Facts: Cilla Dalén’s reading tips

Access to literature is important. Go to the library – either the school library or the public library. Feel free to borrow many books, even if only a couple of them are read. Leave them in front of the coffee table, by the toilet and the bed.

If the children have to turn off at half past eight, let them lie in bed at eight o’clock without a mobile phone for a reading session: “Many children and young people need help setting aside time for reading and reading together is very important and great fun. Read aloud until the child refuses and stops his fingers in the ears.”

When schools choose to have all students set aside time each morning for reading for a period, it has an effect. “No book is fun to read if you only read a quarter of an hour a week.”

If teachers find it difficult to prioritize reading when the students choose their own books, you can carry out investments in it in periods, interspersed with periods of a lot of joint reading.

School librarian Cilla Dalén packs her trolley with books and stands in the wind outside the Enback School in the Stockholm suburb of Tensta. Before long, a bunch of girls are sitting in a ring on seating mats – reading magazines and flipping through the “Handbook of Superheroes.” Ten-year-old Najma looks at the various titles in the cart while she states that her own favorite is “Kompisboken” by Lin Hallberg.

— It was Cilla who made me want it. On the back of books there is usually a bit about the book and she reads there, that’s how I knew what it was about, she says.

The outdoor library was something that Cilla Dalén invented during the corona pandemic, but when she noticed that the students liked it, she continued to sit outside, two days a week.

— The younger students come running and check the books, some of them sit and read for ten minutes. It will be a very unpretentious way to meet books, it’s just joy and curiosity, she says.

“A Sluggish Work”

Attracting children and young people to read is not about magic, but is a slow job, emphasizes Cilla Dalén, who has received a number of reading promotion awards, including the Swedish Academy’s librarian prize in 2022. In times when young people’s reading time and reading ability are falling, she knows that a staffed school library at least means that all students are exposed to literature at school.

— There are many teachers who do a great job with reading, but also those who forget leisure reading, because teachers have a very big mission. Then maybe I will be some kind of guarantor that all students receive reading stimulation in different ways, she says.

It is her fourth year working at Enbacksskolan, after ten years at Hjulsta elementary school. She meets the youngest students, from preschool to year 3, every two weeks in the library and the older students a little less often. She holds book talks, gives tips, and teaches library knowledge and the internet to a total of 400 students. With a media grant of SEK 200 per student per year, she can also buy titles that the students are curious about.

In the beginning, she encountered some resistance among the older students.

— When I first had a book talk at junior high school, they just looked at me and thought “that aunt is not smart, what is she talking about” and so no one borrowed a book. It is not the case that all students read now, but the promotion of reading is accepted among the upper secondary school students and quite a few borrow books and read. It’s about having time, money and resources to work with, she says.

“School libraries have two missions: one is about media and information literacy, and the other is about reading. They are connected, because if you are to seek information for a school assignment and be critical, it is often the ability to read that is the key. If you don’t have the skills to skim when it’s difficult if you google it, says librarian Cilla Dalén, who teaches internet skills to students Ibbe and Sami.
In the library at Enbacksskolan in Tensta, students can join in and recommend books.

Live literature discussion

Recently, Cilla Dalén became angry when the Minister of Culture Parisa Liljestrand argued for a literary canon in a DN interview, with the words: “Why not let children from Tensta and Täby have a common experience base?”. Underlining the differences between the schools in the socio-economically very different areas is based on prejudices about what the literature work in, for example, Tensta looks like, Cilla Dalén thinks.

— We have four libraries with trained librarians at the four primary schools here and I know that qualified literature work is carried out. There is such careless talk about schools in the suburbs, she says.

She also doesn’t understand the point of pinning down a cannon for everyone. Of course all children should be able to read Astrid Lindgren, believes Cilla Dalén, but some year a series of Lindgren’s works may be shown on television – and then perhaps you can choose another book by the author. Instead, she thinks the important thing is a lively discussion of literature among teachers and librarians and that you use a diversity of different, exciting texts.

— Now it seems that everything about reading and promoting reading is good. Everything is confirmed. It’s fun in a way, but maybe we should discuss a little more “why do you choose to read all that but none of that?”.

Reading “tricky” texts

Cilla Dalén encourages the students’ love of reading and their own choice of books. But texts that the teachers have to work with, she thinks, should be chosen with care. At her previous school, they often read books by Almapristagare – some texts of which were initially perceived as difficult.

— I perceive it as that we adults and the students became secure in the role of someone who can read something “strange”. We threw ourselves at books we didn’t know much about and explored them together and it was very enjoyable. It’s not so much fun if you’re working with very simple texts and have to know in advance what you want to squeeze out of the students for positions, she says.

Cilla Dalén has a work plan that has been approved by the school management, but the success also depends on her constantly trying new approaches. Recently, she placed books in unexpected places at school – prompting junior high students to exclaim “whoa, that was clever”. The teachers carry signs with what they are currently reading and in the area there is the initiative “Läsplogen” – where students themselves can act as reading promoters.

— Some things you do persistently year after year and some things you try. Now I have bought a pin machine to make pins. You should be able to choose quotes from books, because it becomes a different kind of reading, that you don’t just skim through but think about how the authors express themselves, says Cilla Dalén.

Footnote: Considering the privacy of the children, they are presented by first name only.

“I can offer different kinds of literature and push for books of different kinds. At this school we also have teachers who are amused by literature and then they trigger each other. This is what you have to strive for: continuing education, time and space within the school to talk literature also among adults,” says school librarian Cilla Dalén.

Source: Then24

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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