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The panel took place on October 22 at the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair and panelists consisted of three individuals from reading promotion organizations who are also members of EU Read.

Guests were Prof. Dr. Simone Ehmig, head of the Institute for Reading and Media Research at Stiftung Lesen in Germany, Marc Lambert from Scotland, chief executive of Scottish Book Trust, Scotland’s national agency for the promotion, and Daan Beeke from the Netherlands, Domain Specialist at Stichting Lezen and also Campaign Manager EU READ. The panel discussion was moderated by Karin Plötz, director of LitCam.
Because of the pandemic there were 20 people as audience allowed, but the panel was also streamed live and will be shown on the LitCam YouTube Chanel after the Book Fair.

The covid-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history. For the world's most vulnerable students, school closures and continued school disruptions threaten their learning and broaden the achievement gap.
But what about reading? Did children and their parents read more in times of lockdown? Or did children prefer to play online games and were not interested in reading? And what about children, who can't read and write properly? Are there differences concerning the consequences of the pandemic in Europe?
These are the questions which were discussed with three extraordinary people from Scotland, the Netherlands and Germany.

The school closures during the corona pandemic had consequences. Each of the panelists described the situation of their Organizations while the lockdown.

Prof. Ehmig refers that especially children from social disadvantaged families, often with migrant background suffers from the lockdown. During the School closures Stiftung Lesen distributed books to a lot of places, so that children get the possibility to read. There were also a lot of Video-Readings.

Marc Lambert declared that there were also learning losses in Scotland. Due to Covid-19, the Scottish Book Trust moved many of their events to online platforms to ensure still delivering programs and reaching audiences. Removing geographical and physical barriers enabled Scottish Book Trust to reach wider and larger audiences in many cases. Examples of this are the annual Bookbug Conference, Book Week Scotland and our New Writers Awards showcase [35,032 views on Twitter and 264 views on YouTube]. Registrations for program events and training exceeded expectations and required Scottish Book Trust to secure additional online platform licences to accommodate higher viewer numbers. BWS flagship events were supported by accessible captioning and BSL signing. All pre-recorded content that was available on demand for a defined period post event had subtitles added to break down barriers to access.
The Touring program went virtual and provide rich content to over 100,000 children at home during lockdown, and then when schools returned, more than 19,000 children have enjoyed live author events beamed live in their classrooms. Scottish Book Trust was able to broaden participation and enhance the experience by providing a range of guest speakers from every continent as well as experts on Space and Polar expeditions at a time when young people could only travel as far as their school. Scottish Book Trust was very busy and had made a successful job to reach a lot of the Children who had no access to books.

Daan Beeke told the audience that the Netherlands is interesting as a “best-case” scenario, with a short lockdown, equitable school funding, and world-leading rates of internet access. Nevertheless, they had the same problems as Scotland and Germany. It was difficult to reach children from the disadvantaged families which would have the most needs.

Karin Plötz stated that the pandemic is putting a focus on already existing problems. In Germany it was the lack of digitization. She refers to a recently conducted study on the importance of reading, but also on the use of digital media for Information about Covid-19.

Prof. Ehmig talked about the findings of her study. People with minor reading abilities couldn’t use the internet efficiently and had therefore no valuable information about Covid-19 and the consequences. These problems are especially in families from weak social background or migrant background. It will be necessary to support these people in reading, so that they had the chance to take part in society.

The additional fundings of the three governments of the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland were also discussed and the panelists spoke about their work with the fundings. An interesting point was that Prisco Piscitelli, UNESCO Chair on Health education and Sustainable Development said: “Reading stories, especially fantasy, is a ‘social vaccination’ against all the restrictions because they help children find a way to exit what Covid-19 put into play. This statement was confirmed by all panelists.
Furthermore, there was consensus by the point that there is also an astonishing annual ‘What kids are reading’-report analysed by the University of Dundee's Professor Keith Topping.
It figured out the reading habits of more than 1.1 million pupils across the UK and Ireland including 46.722 Scottish youngsters. It showed reading skills improved over lockdown periods, with many children picking up longer books of greater difficulty.
The report also contains findings from a National Literacy Trust survey of 4.141 pupils across UK which shows that three out of five children said reading made them feel better during lockdown. It was discussed how this report does fit in the impression we have about the loss of reading ability by many children. All three Countries have children who read more while the pandemic. But there was also the other part, who don’t read anyway and prefers to play online games. There is no conclusion that children who didn’t read before pandemic read more through lockdown times. The result of this panel was that the three countries faces nearly the same problems while the pandemic and presence. There is a gap between different target groups. The forecoming task will be to close this gap and support reading for all.

The panel was well attended mainly by young adults both as sitting and standing audience. The discussion was streamed via the Frankfurt bookfair mainstreaming channel. With commitment of all participants, it was published on YouTube: Forum Bildung 2021: "Reading promotion and the Corona Pandemic" - YouTube.

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