For twelve years now, the students of the Teacher Training for Primary Education (PABO) De Eekhorst in Assen have been reading to toddlers whose native language is not Dutch. Not in the classroom, but at the homes of the toddlers’ families. Sander Veenema is language and training teacher at NHL Stenden and coordinates the Reading Caravan. “Language disadvantages with children from families with another mother tongue than Dutch is a serious issue. We notice that our students really have an impact!”
"We think it’s important that during their studies, primary school teacher education (Pabo) students get to know children with a mother tongue other than Dutch," explains Sander. "As a primary school teacher you have to deal with foreign languages, cultural diversity and intercultural communication".
The Reading Caravan was created in cooperation with the local library. Karina Siebering, reading/media consultant and developer: "Inspired by the Reading Epress (Voorleesexpress), a national project with the same scope, we have set up our own programme. They were working with volunteers and I wanted to cooperate with the Academy of Primary Teacher Education. We went our own way and came up with a nice name: the Reading Caravan. And so we started out small in one neighbourhood in Assen where many children with a migration background live".
Meanwhile, reading to children has become a regular part of the curriculum. Every week, second-year Pabo student Thomas Otten visits a family to read to them. Thomas: "The first time I showed up was very funny, because I actually got quite a reception when I was standing at the bottom of the stairs. Three floors up I could hear 'Master Thomas! It's Master Thomas, Mummy! 'It's nice to see how much my culture differs from that of the child who I am reading to. I ended up in a Syrian family and was treated with great respect. I really felt at ease. It's also interesting that you get to know all kinds of new things like food, drink and manners".
Sander emphasizes it isn't just a rewarding experience for the students. "The families are very grateful and the primary schools in Assen are very happy with the commitment of our students. Also there are plenty of examples of former students who continue to have contact with the families where they have read during their studies". Thomas: "I will probably keep on reading after my second year, because the child I read to is very excited when I am there and I am very sorry when I leave. The parents are also very friendly and would like to talk a lot of Dutch with me to get a better understanding".
The Reading Caravan enables students to experience all sorts of disciplines that you – directly or indirectly – encounter as a teacher. “Each year, we try to organise various activities with the students”, Sander explains. “For example a visit to the museum or a theatre. And the second-year students also draft a pedagogical portrait of the child they are reading to for a year.” Klarina's adds: "Every year we evaluate with all parties: the families are always very grateful and happy that they could participate and would like to participate again. Sometimes we can refer parents to the Language House (‘Taalhuis’) in the library, where they can get a buddy to improve their Dutch. Their primary schools often indicate that the children have become freer, are more likely to pick a book and also tell the class about books they know by now. They also say that contact with the parents has improved. Parents enter the school more easily and have a chat with the teacher. The parents' involvement in school has positive effects on the development of their children".
“In order to make the pedagogical portrait, the students also visit the child’s school.” These visits are incredibly valuable for students, according to Sander. “A classroom full of children is much more than only the room. It is a collection of various backgrounds. You see the experiences with the Reading Caravan come up in all sorts of ways in our students’ development, for example in their personal portfolio and during Philosophy of Life.”
The Assen library is located in De Nieuwe Kolk (DNK). This also houses a theatre, museum and a cinema. The Assen PABO regularly cooperates with all these parties, thus acquiring a similar position as a DBE workshop. “We often use Bereslimme Boeken [Beary Clever Books],” Sander explains. “These are interactive animations of well-known story books. Last summer, we, in cooperation with inter alia the municipality and the library, were awarded a subsidy.
Three students contribute to the development of an app, which will contain some thirty Bereslimme Boeken. Child Centre De Driemaster in Assen, a primary school that has already been participating in the Reading Caravan for twelve years, serves as the work shop for this project. Here, the students learn on the job and co-create this with various parties. In short, a wonderful example of our Design Based Education educational concept in action!”
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