Lighting a Fire forLlife – B/Slash reduces fear of reading

By Guest Blogger,

Eric Boekesteijn

As soon as I enter the room I can feel the looks. ‘Who is that? What does she want?’ I am in a classroom of a high school for VMBO (preparatory middle vocational education) pupils. By no means an easy target group when it comes to reading and reading enjoyment. However, with B/Slash, a reading stimulation project set up for VMBO3 pupils by the Library of South Gelderland, the results are surprisingly positive.

Many of these pupils hardly ever read, or never read at all. They think that reading is stupid and that there are no good books. The starting point for this project is the Slash series by publisher Querido. True stories written by Dutch youngsters about drug trafficking, abuse, grief, and other subjects that resonate with these pupils.

Low literacy
A great many of these pupils are low literate or experience fear of reading. They are not in the habit of picking up a book by themselves. This is difficult for their teachers, often even a struggle. They consider it a victory if pupils read as much as a Donald Duck magazine. With this in the back of my mind, I start the lesson by presenting myself as a librarian who will start a fun book project. When I ask who thinks it’s cool I am here, not a single finger is raised. Luckily, I have experienced that this sentiment will change over the course of this project. After giving a brief overview of the B/Slash project, I explain the subject matter of the books. I brought four different titles with me and everyone has to choose one of these. During my talk, tranquility descends on the class. They listen attentively. Occasionally, you can see pupils glancing at each other, sharing a look of excitement. They know what they want, they are eager to start. After viewing our book trailers, they choose their preferred book. Teams of about four pupils are formed with students who have chosen the same book. They will be working together over the next five weeks. When I finish the lesson, I ask who thinks it’s cool I came by and who thinks the book they have is fun. With a smile I see how most fingers go up in the air. The foundation has been laid for the teacher to take over.

Over the following five weeks, the teacher will be using a specifically designed curriculum. By means of a digital platform, Kahoot, pupils can earn points through a variety of questions and creative assignments. The questions will stimulate the pupils to discuss the books together. Because of this set-up, teachers hardly have to prepare anything when they teach B/Slash. After five weeks, the group that has collected most points is proclaimed the winner. The book of this group is the point of focus for the conclusion of the project.

Project day

When I stop by to take a look during a project day, I can see the pupils enthusiastically working with stop-motion animation and theatre. They are acting out a scene from the book together with instructors from “Kleinkunstig” (an art-education foundation) and transforming that into an Augmented Reality route. This makes this project so much more than just reading stimulation. It directly helps teachers and students develop 21st-century skills. During a break, pupils come over and tell me they loved the book. ‘Miss, do you have any more of these sort of books?’ With a nod I list a couple of titles. Mission accomplished. A fire has been lit, the important thing is to keep it burning.

B/Slash is a project by the Library of South Gelderland, with the help of funders and many others. Our organization is happy to share successful projects with other libraries, so that we can help each other in reaching this important target group. That is why we have made B/Slash available to everyone in the Netherlands and offer support during the set-up period. Several libraries have already embraced the project. Want to know more? Check

Marjolein Hordijk – Project member with the Library of South Gelderland
Photos: Marcel krijgsman / Twitter: @justslacking / Twitter: @bieb024 / Facebook: bibliotheekgelderlandzuid

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