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Stiftung Lesen

Stiftung Lesen (German Reading Foundation), based in Mainz, Germany, is a foundation that is committed to reading and literacy promotion. We believe that reading is a prerequisite for full participation in today's media-led and culturally diverse society. Reading is fundamental to human development, it enables people to live full and meaningful lives and contribute towards the enrichment of the communities in which we all live. Find more information about the vision, the work and the different programmes of Stiftung Lesen below.

The vision of Stiftung Lesen

Stiftung Lesen (German Reading Foundation) acts as an advocate for reading and media competency in Germany to ensure that every child and adult in Germany develops crucial reading and media skills, and enjoys reading. In order to create a basis for the development of reading skills, and to enhance the overall level of literacy, Stiftung Lesen established adequate and accessible programmes for every member of society – regardless of financial, cultural or social background.

Within Germany, the foundation acts as an agent for the advancement of reading by contributing programmes, political recommendations and scientific research. In addition, the foundation sees itself as coordinator of other organisations to foster dialogue, exchange and cooperation between government institutions, politics, the public, science and economy. Internationally, Stiftung Lesen is a lead partner in the European reading promotion platform EURead, and a core member of the European Literacy Policy Network (ELINET).

The background of the foundation’s work

Non-readers are disadvantaged in our society because the ability to read is fundamental to the ability to learn. Reading competence is essential for personal development and social integration. The competence to read significantly influences income, as identified by the OECD’s report ‘Education at a Glance’ 2014.

PISA studies and OECD’s reports on the literacy of children in Germany have identified strong deficits in this field in the years past: one in five 15-year-olds only reads at a rudimentary level (PISA studies of 2001 and 2009). According to the 2011 LEO study, around 7.5 million adults in this country are classified as functionally illiterate and only 20% of the German population read books on a regular basis.

The work of Stiftung Lesen

Stiftung Lesen’s initiatives and programmes as well as pilot and research projects complement and build on each other. The programmes support early infant development in the family and nurseries when the basis of reading competency is laid. Older children and teenagers are reached through projects in- and outside school, covering their future development. In addition to the children benefitting directly, actors chaperoning the children’s development such as parents, childcare workers, teachers, booksellers and librarians are integrated in the programmes.

Stiftung Lesen creates a movement in reading:

  • 750 000 children are enthralled by the current gift book “I will make you a gift of a story” on World Book Day on 23rd April
  • 200.000 “Reading Friends” books were given to adults as a gift on World Book Day 2014
  • In 2013 80.000 reading events took place on National Book Day – with more than 1 million listeners
  • About 105.000 volunteers of Stiftung Lesen are actively involved in reading and storytelling.
  • 9 million families received book sets through the McDonald’s Happy Meal campaign
  • More than 42 000 teachers from all types of schools are actively involved in the foundation’s Teacher’s Club
  • 4.5 million families will have received “Reading Starter Packs” by 2018 from Reading Start (Lesestart).

Structure and organisation

Founded in 1988, Stiftung Lesen is headed by three directors under the patronage of Germany’s president. The Chief Executive is Dr Jörg F. Maas. An interdisciplinary panel of scientific experts supports Stiftung Lesen in developing new research topics and programmes by identifying emerging trends in reading and media competency.

The work of Stiftung Lesen is also supported by numerous celebrities and prominent Reading Ambassadors well known through sports, TV, cinema, politics and journalism, who volunteer as representatives of the foundation in various activities.

In addition, 150.000 volunteer readers, who are connected through the Reading Club of Stiftung Lesen show great commitment, organising reading sessions in libraries, nurseries and schools. These volunteers are trained as project instructors by Stiftung Lesen.

Institute for Research on Reading and Media

In 2006 Stiftung Lesen established its own Institute for Research on Reading and Media in order to align its projects with the latest scientific findings. The institute is tasked with conducting scientific research on the use of media, reading and reading socialisation, the supervision and evaluation of the foundation’s projects and the organisation of conferences on topics concerning reading and media research. Thus, the institute identifies new topics and trends and acts as an important initiator for the programming agenda of Stiftung Lesen.

The Institute for Research in Reading and Media consults and supports cooperation and network partners of Stiftung Lesen and provides them with the findings of current research projects. The institute functions as a national point of contact and commentator on questions of reading and media research, and represents the foundation at conferences and panel discussions.

Publications (selected):

Conference Volume “Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Education” (2013)