Enabling learning through play: Innovation Award

Serbian library provides rich play experiences to improve children’s reading comprehension

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Children conducting a puppet show in Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’. They base the pubbet show on texts they have been reading.
Children create a puppet show based on a book they have been reading in Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’.

The ‘I have the right to read’ programme offered by Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’ in Jagodina, Serbia, is providing children aged from 6 - 12 years old with rich learning through play experiences to improve their reading comprehension.

By building reading comprehension skills, the programme is supporting cognitive development of the children, and helping them to improve their imagination and creativity, to develop empathy and friendships, and to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. 

‘I have the right to read’ is a huge success. In just one year (2021/2022), over 650 children have participated in weekly fun reading activities in the library, including - 

  • TV Commercials - children recommend their favourite books as 60-second commercials, learning how to summarize and retell stories. 
  • Our Theatre - children adapt a book into a play, and perform the story or use puppets to tell it. They also integrate real-life experiences into their plays.
  • You Are Me and I Am You - children learn to understand the personalities of characters in books, and make connections to their own feelings and lives.
  • Draw to Flow - children learn to order the sequence of events in stories, organize their thoughts and communicate the story through drawings.
  • Battle of the Brains - the children pretend to be participants in a TV quiz show. In teams, they read and answer questions, learning to think analytically and make predictions. 
  • I Spy With My Little Eye - the children practice paying attention to detail to better understand the intention of authors. They are detectives, looking for clues in text or that they hear in reading out loud sessions. 

‘Children can relax in the library’

One of the main reasons for the success of the programme is that it happens in the library, according to Jelena Rajić, librarian in Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’s Department for Cultural and Educational Programmes and Reading Promotion. “The library is a neutral space, therefore children are not evaluated like in school and do not get grades, and so they can relax and enjoy the experience. They do not compete, just participate equally in the play. 

“Also, teachers cannot introduce learning through play activities like these because - especially for children in higher grades - the school curriculum is intensive and time is limited,” said Jelena.

In September 2022 librarians randomly selected 150 children for a short survey to explore their feelings about the programme. They like the programme, for a lot of reasons, said Jelena, and it is generating a love of books and improving their reading comprehension skills. 

‘You can actually learn something from books’

"I like reading more now. I choose books depending on my mood. If I am happy, I borrow a funny book. If I am sad, I borrow a happy book. If I am bored, I borrow something interesting." said Nikolina, aged 9.

"You can actually learn something from books. You can learn people’s characters, their lives, their behaviour," said 11-year-old Vasilije.

"When I read, I can read between the lines and understand the message of a book. Then I think about the world we live in and what is happening now," said 8-year-old Anastasija.

"I didn’t like the school reading curriculum before because I didn’t know how to remember what I was reading. Now I like discussions about books in our classes. My imagination lets pictures of what I read into my head," said Luka, 10.

The programme has also impressed teachers, who say that students are excited about the activities, that their interest in the school reading curriculum has improved, they participate more in discussions, and their test results are improving.

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