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Bits of the Benelux: Dutch Youth Reading Campaign Set to Begin

BRUNSSUM, Netherlands – Dutch primary schools gear up for their annual Children’s Book Week (known in Dutch as Kinderboekenweek) campaign Oct. 4-15. With children spending more time on electronics, encouraging youth to read has become even more significant, according to the Commission for the Propaganda of the Dutch Book.

“I love to read,” said Budget Analyst Jacqueline Sangen, USAG Benelux-Brunssum Resource Management Office. “When I was young, I would turn on my nightlight and read until one or two in the morning. My parents didn’t know.”

The development of reading in a child’s life sets the foundation for many of their pursuits as they grow. Reading as a Family and independently has been highly regarded as an essential tool in the education of emerging generations. Because of this, the Netherlands places special focus on reading across the country for 12 days every October. This Children’s Book Week aims to highlight the significance of reading through special school and library activities in every community.

This year’s theme, “At My House,” encourages children to read about how kids live in a variety of home environments all around the world. The theme follows a long legacy of themes in Dutch literature since the reading week first began in 1955 as an offshoot of the adult version held every March since 1932.

Quarters Inspector Jeroen Janssen, USAG Benelux-Brunssum Directorate of Public Works – Housing Division, recalled a vivid memory of Children’s Book Week from his childhood.

“I remember when I was little, my class went to the library, and I didn’t have a library card to check out a book,” he said. “It’s a special thing to get a book during Kinderboekenweek, and I really wanted a book.”

Janssen recounted that he knew there was another child with his same name who had a library card, so he posed as this other child to check out the book. When he got home, he got in trouble by his parents, and they notified the other family of the mishap.

“I still got to read the book before I had to return it the next day,” said Janssen. “I remember it so clearly. It was a book about penguins.”

Founded by the Commission for the Propaganda of the Dutch Book, the campaign kicks off with a children’s book ball, reminiscent of the adult book week commencement. The commission announces awards for the best Dutch children’s and picture books. The gathering typically attracts illustrators, writers, publishers, journalists, and booksellers.

Additionally, every year upon request, a well-known Dutch or Flemish author writes a book, usually a novella, to be used as the official book week gift (or boekenweekgeschenk, in Dutch). When a patron makes a purchase at a bookstore or opens a new membership at a city library, they receive the book week gift. Since 1983, the campaign has also published a picture book for younger audiences.

Schools participate in the reading week with curriculum that includes a suggested reading list of twenty children’s books selected to support the theme. Reluctant readers receive another list intended specifically for their needs. Part of the curriculum includes a special poem and a theme song featured with animated singing and dancing to support reading activities. During the campaign, children can even enter a contest to create their own board game based on a book, with the winning design to be published and produced.

This series, Bits of the Benelux, will continue to explore the many cultural traditions in and around the Benelux. Further stories like this on the local traditions, festivals, and events are scheduled to be published monthly, as they occur.

Source: Dvids Hub