Reading skills of Dutch children continue to decline, action is needed

Teenagers are less likely to pick up a book. Photo:
Teenagers are less likely to pick up a book. Photo:

Some 18 libraries, educational organisations as well as youth health organisations have called for an ‘inclusive reading offensive’ to combat the declining literacy among children and adults.

International research has shown that the reading skills of Dutch children, particularly those in vocational education and with a migrant background, are deteriorating and that fewer children enjoy reading.

The organisations have pressed education ministers Ingrid van Engelshoven and Arie Slob to take action, saying schools must provide a range of books and have their own library. Methods to teach children to read must also be given more attention at teacher training colleges.

Schools are key in the manifesto. ‘When children leave primary school most children can read to an acceptable level but once they go to secondary school a significant group doesn’t read enough to maintain the skill,’ Gerlien van Dalen, chairwoman of reading promotion organisation Leescoalitie told the AD.

According to teacher Didy Pijper, even children who love to read when they leave primary school say they all but stopped once they started secondary school. ‘It’s usually because they have a phone. It’s a huge effort to get teenagers to read a book,’ she told the paper.

The offensive must also bring together the many projects that have sprung up over the years, the organisations said.

‘There have been countless initiatives, all well-meaning but it’s a patchwork of measures, activities, websites and a host of dedicated volunteers, grandparents, reading ambassadors and reading consultants. It still hasn’t worked. What is lacking is a sense of urgency and the need for everyone involved to raise the bar together.’

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