How to Create Book Lovers in Brazil: The First CONALER (National Reading Conference)
The first Conferência Nacional de Leitura (CONALER) took place in Brazil from Oct 10-16. The event was organized by Galeno Amorim, journalist and writer in charge of the foundation Observatório do Livro e da Leitura. It consisted of seven days of online lectures (four sessions per day, followed by a book reading with a famous author), attracting some 4,000 participants.
Registration was free and, as a follow-up, offered attendees a discount on the purchase of a premium membership, which includes access to video and audio recordings of all the talks, an ebook with summaries of the sessions, the opportunity to participate in future workshops and minicourses, and invitation to a private Facebook community (for further info, please refer to: http://conaler.org.br).
Most of the lectures were objective, motivational, and chock-full of useful advice and information for teachers, parents, librarians, and government agents on how to create an atmosphere conducive to reading in their classrooms, houses, schools, and libraries. The talks featured important names from the book business in Brazil, including well-known authors, college professors, publishers, bookshop owners, and educational consultants.
Below we summarize ten of the main takeaways of the conference's sessions:
1. The habit of reading does not come naturally and needs to be stimulated and nourished.
2. In general, kids who like to read pick up the habit by copying their parents. Unlike the more traditional and still popular print books, reading ebooks on tablets may hinder this mimicking process a little bit, as children are never sure what their parents are using a tablet for. Are they reading, playing games, or watching videos?
3. Having said that, ebooks, as well as print books and audiobooks, are an effective way of providing literature. These are only different forms of media and platforms that are bound to change and evolve anyway. It’s a losing battle to try to raise objections or foment prejudices against any of these devices. Books, especially literature, must be enjoyed in whatever form they come.
4. Teachers, of course, also play a huge role in instilling the love of literature. It’s essential to create specific reading spaces at school. The so-called libraries or reading rooms need to serve as more than sacred cathedrals for the storage of those precious objects known as books. They should also be fully accessible to kids and present texts in all kinds of media and formats. Set times during the school hours should also be allocated to the task of reading. Teachers can start off by reading aloud from a book as a way of motivating young learners, but it’s important that, from a certain age, students begin to manipulate the books themselves and read directly from them.
5. Teachers and parents should not set “high literature” as the initial goal for younger readers or adolescents. In Brazilian schools, the selection of age-inadequate books, chosen by "specialists" to be used as set books in the curriculum, is usually off-putting.
Sophisticated authors such as Machado de Assis, José de Alencar, and Guimarães Rosa are commonly suggested for teenagers! It would be surprising if the average teenager liked or even understood the themes and language of these novels! Teachers should begin by recommending simpler literature, and only progressively guide the students to more refined books. There’s nothing wrong with getting them started with comic books, for example, the delicious Agatha Christie's whodunits or the Harry Potter series!
6. On the other hand, the advice given by writer Loyola de Brandão in his exciting opening session may sound controversial to some and surely won’t be taken up by many teachers and parents. Basically, he stated that no books should be banned from the school library. Literature is, after all, meant to broaden minds and it’s up to students of any age, religious persuasion, gender, race or sexual orientation to make their choices. A bit too bold, some would say.
7. Literature is one of the most important subjects taught at school. It will help students acquire and develop skills in all other areas of knowledge. Storytelling has the power of boosting the imagination and creating critically-thinking subjects, familiarizing students with abstract concepts and logic, which will be invaluable in learning all the other areas of the curriculum.
8. From an early age, students should be exposed to literature produced by minority groups in society so that they can develop an authentic sense of appreciation and respect for diversity. Reading these authors will also help to break stereotypes.
9. Emotional testimonials were given by lecturers on how books, and especially contact with literature, radically changed their lives and set them on a path to success.
10. The concepts of citizenship and the creation of mature readers are inextricable. One needs to be fluent at reading and writing to be able to fully function as a citizen.
We are all looking forward to the second installment of CONALER.