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  • Writer's pictureHenrike Laing

Groninger Children's Journey From „Lazy Letter Land“ to Book Enthusiasts

Young children cannot yet read or write themselves, but a theater play written for the National Reading Days gave children in Beijum Library today the chance to stimulate their imagination, dive into the "Lazy Letter Land” and get enthusiastic about books and language in a playful way.


Theater Pannenkoek is performing the play "Luiletterland" a total of 13 times during the national reading-aloud days around Groningen © Henrike Laing

Together with the character Groenlokje, children from the age of 2 can take a journey through the fictional land in which well-known children’s book characters live while their books aren’t being read by children. The characters spend their time in "Lazy Letter Land" as long as their books stay on the shelf. This problem that is the plot of the theater piece is what the actors of the play want to prevent in real life: children not being interested in reading.


Reading aloud has positive effects on children


A study by the Education Inspectorate from 2021 showed that 63 per cent of Dutch ten-year-olds spend less than 30 minutes a day reading. In 2016, this was 52 percent. This research also showed that children’s reading skills in the Netherlands aren’t as good as in other comparable countries.


Are you reading more than 30 minutes a day?

  • Yes.

  • No.

  • For school, university or work - but not for fun.


The Dutch foundation "Stichting Lezen" started the campaign "National Vorleesdagen" in 2004 to strengthen the importance of reading aloud for children's development and their language skills. Further, the foundation emphasizes that “talking about a story or illustration stimulates the imagination. Children recognize situations and emotions from their own lives and learn to put those emotions into words."


"We are in a story and the children are part of it"


The theater show in Beijum is one of many activities organized around Groningen during the national reading-aloud days. Natalie van Eerden and Inge Bakker have been making theatre together for six years as "Theater Pannenkoek," although they actually went into their first play with the attitude that it should be "not too time-consuming," the two remember, smiling.


Back then they were both teachers at the cultural institution Vrijdag. Inge and Natalie now try with their plays to strengthen language skills and lure children out of their comfort zones. "We want to make their world a little bigger, be there for them and encourage them to read."


During the national read-aloud days, the importance of reading and reading out loud for children is being highlighted. © Henrike Laing

During the play, problems arise for characters and the children are encouraged to find solutions together. "The play is very interactive. We are in a story and the children are part of it," Natalie explains.

 

The effect the journey to the distant land of books has on children is very different. “Every child needs another part of the play and therefore takes another part,” Natalie says. “With some of them, it is very impressive. For some it is the first theater play and it will have an impact on them,” Natalie explains.


"These activities are important to bring those kids to reading"


The library in Beijum is full of curious children at 15:00 when the play begins. The friends Karin and José came with their two 5-year-old children who were super excited beforehand, they say. "It is something really fun for them after school, more than just playing," José says. She reads to her children at home every night, however, the theater play is even more exciting for them, she thinks.


But not only children who are being read to at home benefit from the theater. Annemiek von Teerns, local coordinator of the library in Beijum, stresses: "My experience has shown me that this is an area where lots of kids only come to the library to play and at home their parents don't read to them often. These activities are important to bring those kids to reading."


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