Interview by Marja Juhola
In this age of computer games, YouTube and non-stop internet, getting children to sit down and pick up a book or a magazine to read can be a struggle. One private language centre in Malacky, Slovakia, decided to try and put together a project to get their YLs reading. We (SKA) spoke to Andrea Chabrečková (AC), the school owner and director, to find out more.
SKA: What was the aim of the project?
AC: This was just an experiment. Firstly, we wanted to show kids that reading could be fun, interesting and challenging. We also wanted to boost children’s self-confidence and we did! From a language learning point of view, reading is an excellent way to consolidate new language as well as to learn new vocabulary.
SKA: So tell us how you went about it.
AC: First we chose a selection of language learning magazines aimed at young learners (Friendship, Hello!, Hello Kids!, Hurra!). Children were encouraged to order 3 issues of the magazine that suited their age and level best. Each week over a 4-week period 2 questions for each magazine were published (FB, school noticeboard), and the children were encouraged by their teachers to answer them. Teachers could help but not give them the correct answers. Answers were put in a box provided for this purpose. In order to win a prize at the end of the 4 weeks, they needed to have answered all 8 questions.
SKA: What did parents say about having to pay for the magazines?
AC: Most were happy to do it. As an extra incentive, we also offered a “prize” for the parents: the winning children received a discount for a course next semester. This helped to motivate the adults too!
SKA: How would you evaluate the project?
AC: It was a great success! It created a positive competitive atmosphere at school with 99% of our children participating. There was always a lot of excitement in the corridor when new questions were published. I believe we achieved our main aim: to get students enthusiastic about reading and to show them that they are able to read and understand a foreign language. Using material that was up-to-date and relevant certainly made it more interesting for them.
SKA: What advice would you give to schools/teachers who might want to try something similar?
AC: I would definitely recommend it. It is important to have the support of teachers and parents. We need to teach children by example: if we are enthusiastic about reading, children will follow!