From January 2021, The Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature in Iran initiated the “Reading in Families” program in Qeshem Island. Ten teachers and promoters and more than one hundred parents have joined this endeavor. Two months after implementing the program on this large island in the South of Iran, parents, and children’s encouraging reception, has demonstrated its effectiveness and success for ‘Read with Me’ experts and motivated further expansion of the program (/http//:khanak.org). Keep Children in School Foundation (KCIS) will support the” Reading in Families” program in Qeshm.
“Reading in Families” is a novel project that follows the same framework and guidelines of the “Read with Me” program. The project’s principal goal is to take book reading and literacy into the homes of educationally disadvantaged families and bring about a rich academic environment. Circumstances are designed where children from birth are exposed to learning activities and practicing literacy skills before entering primary school. Simultaneously, older children in the family will strengthen their reading competence. Family means all the family members are involved in the reading and learning activities – parents, siblings, and grandparents. This program is implemented in deprived regions; its primary purpose is to cater to families who cannot even buy books for their children and are also unaware of their influencing role in educating them.
For the implementation of the program, The Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature in Iran has called upon local teachers, promoters, librarians of “Read with Me” libraries, and primary school teachers all over Iran to enlighten parents of the importance of book reading skills, and their vital role and participation for the success of the program. Based on the region’s activities, existing circumstances, and the number of families covered in the program, the local team has constant contact with parents, either by phone or physical presence. In these educational sessions, the experts give assistance and guidance about book reading skills and literacy activities and regularly evaluate their progress and provide necessary instructions according to the “Read with Me” program.
In Autumn 2020, ten “Read with Me” representatives (local teachers) active in book reading and promoting books in Qeshem Island were chosen to implement the “Reading in Families” program. They began teaching 107 families and more than 240 children in different age groups. In the Qeshem Program, family members from Qeshem and Dargahan cities, Tabl, Karvan, Ziranag, Heller, Kousheh, Ramchah, Giyahdan, arbadan, Tourian, Cordova, Toula, and Kouvehee villages were present. In the program, 740 high-quality literacy textbooks for different age groups, accompanied by handbooks and activity leaflets, and 170 creative literacy packages were all dispatched to the region.
In January 2020, “Read with Me” experts conducted two virtual instruction sessions for teachers and explained the necessary skills required to implement the “Reading in Families” program. And they began to teach the course at the end of the same month.
In the family education sessions, teachers and promoters of “Read with Me” in Qeshem Island by reading aloud, teaching basic creative literacy skills, especially for mothers, have acquainted them with quality books and book reading effectiveness in developing and flourishing literacy. At the end of each session, promoters or teachers lent out age-appropriate book packages to parents for a month to share quality books and enhance their children’s literacy and creative abilities. In the following sessions, the books are changed, and on a rotating schedule, they are lent out again to other families. And for parents who had no access to social media or were unable to participate in sessions, hardworking and active promoters take book packages to their homes, give simple teaching instructions and explanations, and encourage them to report their children’s progress.
In the short period since the beginning of “Reading in Families” in Qeshm, families have had promising participation and used their book packages in connection with the book-reading activities. By sending photos, films, and simple reports, they have helped and guided teachers to overcome the course’s shortcomings and contributed to the program’s development. From the beginning of the program, family reports show that book reading has helped increase the children’s vocabulary range. Because of the simultaneous occurrence of the “Reading in Families,” and “Read-aloud” week (2nd to 10th January), many children and family members enthusiastically participated in the “Read-aloud” week activities.
Experiences of participating Families in the program and the effects of book reading in this short period:
· One of the mothers says: In the program, I experienced being with my child once again. After reading aloud, together, we acted out the play, built the scene – a forest with natural leaves, and we made the characters ourselves. We tried to connect with one of the Learning Math book activities and create a model related to it by giving examples. My child and I worked together so beautifully that for moments I went back to my childhood.
· Another mother says: My child always spent his pocket money buying books, but since he became acquainted with this program, he doesn’t like buying or reading low-quality books anymore.
· Another mother talks about the indirect effects of book reading on education and the expansion of children’s cognition. She says: My son thought that there are only one Sun and one Moon in the sky. By reading one of these books with his friend, he knows about other solar systems and has realized there are many greater systems in the universe. We also learned that the Sun compared to the Earth, is much larger, and without it, life would be impossible on our planet.
· Another mother says: My child has become very interested in plays and their performance in kindergarten, and immediately after reading a book, he wants to act out the characters and engage in the activities of the story.
· Another mother talks about an increase in her child’s social skills – connecting and conversing with people. She says: My child always asks many questions, but only recently I realized how to answer him. Reading books is very useful, and I enjoy reading them.
· For children, you can read quality books many times – repetition for them comes with learning. Parents and teachers learn how to cope and accommodate children’s requests. If he/she wants you to read a story many times, you must read it several times. One of the mothers says that her child has fallen in love with ” Red Short-legged Hen.” When she received the book, he wanted his mother to read the story many times. She read aloud it many times, and now he knows the script by heart and acts out the characters in the story. By seeing the joy and happiness in their child, both parents help him make toys from the book’s characters.
· Family experiences show that book reading increases children’s self-confidence. One of the mothers says: My son enjoys reading books for his younger sister; he feels thrilled and has gained higher self-confidence.
· One of the teachers says: I have a girl student who is slow in connecting socially. When I tried to have a video tutorial with her, she wouldn’t look at me or make the slightest effort to answer questions. But after her mother participated in read-aloud sessions and received book reading packages, she has become interested in classes and has better social contact with people.