Slovenia’s Reading Badge for children

Author: Danila Golob

Date: 27. November 2019

Time to read: 5 min

The Reading Badge programme, which promotes voluntary reading during children’s free time, was initially adopted by elementary schools throughout Slovenia. In the last two decades, it has also been thrilling children who read at home with their parents and can win a pre-school Reading Badge.

The initiators of the Reading Badge programme (first known as Prežih’s Badge) were professor Stanko Kotnik and writer Leopold Suhodolčan. Half a century ago, the first Badges were awarded to 119 keen young readers. Since then, this youth reading movement has expanded all over Slovenia, and now includes Slovenian school children across the national border and children of Slovenians all over the world.

Such mass reading, particularly by elementary school children, cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Lifetime readers

In 2002, the Reading Badge was organised as an independent Slovenian Reading Badge Society; its programme became part of the national programme of the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth.

Since the very beginning, the movement has been professionally guided by mentors in schools (since the 1990s also mentors in kindergartens and libraries) and their work with children is the foundation of the Reading Badge.

The Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth organises seminars and prepares educational material for the mentors. It also assists in the organisation of visits of youth literature authors to kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools as well as libraries.

The Reading Badge is developing as a supplement to the teaching of Slovenian language and literature as well as an additional activity in school libraries; at the same time, as an extracurricular/optional compulsory activity, it can be less constricting and closer to children and adolescents.

In this way, it can be more successful in bringing books closer to readers in a friendly and interesting manner, thus shaping lifetime readers who come to love reading.

The Slovenian Reading Badge Society (SRBS) obtains funds in various ways in order to implement programmes and projects at the national level. It applies for calls for proposals put out by the Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Book and the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenians Abroad. It also cooperates with the National Education Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, which carries out activities for the promotion of reading through study groups for librarians and teachers of Slovenian. 

Also, donors and sponsors are of great support to the movement. In the long history of the Reading Badge, numerous Slovenian companies have supported individual projects.

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Into the world with a book

Reading Badge activities are most extensive at elementary schools in Slovenia. 40 per cent of elementary school pupils engage in reading for the Reading Badge throughout elementary school, while 72 per cent of all pupils participate in the programme. While mentors propose a variety of high-quality books to pupils, they can also read books of their choosing if so mutually agreed.

Reading takes place for almost the entire school year. Young readers meet with mentors, discuss books and recommend them to one another.

In the last two decades, the pre-school Reading Badge has promoted family reading and is spreading through Slovenian kindergartens and general libraries. In this way, the youngest readers learn at a very early age that reading means discovering new horizons and, among other things, gives them an opportunity to express what they read through drawing, singing and playing.

In secondary schools, the Reading Badge is usually carried out through reading clubs. Reading for the Reading Badge is also practiced by Slovenian children in regions settled by Slovenians across national borders, while in Slovenia, it is practiced by children of ethnic minorities, immigrants and migrants.

Every year, over 140,000 children participate in reading Slovenian books in all programmes; they are guided by more than 6,400 mentors (school teachers, preschool teachers and librarians).

Stimulation for the readers

Years ago, readers were awarded badges, while nowadays readers of all sizes receive recognition awards and various other prizes – badges, bookmarks, T-shirts, etc. Of course, a book is the most wonderful prize.

In recent years, the Society donates special books to all "golden readers" – i.e. pupils who have read for the Reading Badge throughout elementary school, while first-graders are invited to read picture books (the Golden Reader collection).

Also, children very much appreciate meeting authors of books, visiting cinemas and theatres or being taken on readers’ field trips.

At the end of a reading year, kindergartens, schools and libraries usually organise a Reading Badge closing ceremony and give recognition awards and commendations to the readers. At this opportunity, they usually invite a writer, a poet, an illustrator or a theatre artist to speak to the children.

Creators of the Reading Badge programme, authors of interesting stories and those who have supported the project by awarding books to the most faithful readers for an extended period of time – all of them are well aware of the importance of reading. Parents can also contribute greatly to developing their children’s love for reading. The Reading Badge promotes joy and love for reading among children and adults, connecting families and generations.