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THE MARY FOUNDATION BOOSTS PROJECT FOR CHILDREN WITH LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES

Language difficulties can have big consequences for young children’s well-being and later school life. Using a new substantial donation from the Egmont Foundation, The Mary Foundation will strengthen its efforts to support children who face significant language barriers over the next three years.

More young children in Danish educational institutions will be given new opportunities to strengthen their communication skills through valuable reading experiences and play. To achieve this, The Mary Foundation will use the support from the Egmont Foundation to further develop and expand the BookFun project over the next three years – ensuring that it reaches even more of the children who face the most significant language barriers. The Egmont Foundation has donated DKK 5,715,000 towards the cause.

“All children need to be able to verbalise their thoughts and feelings – but a language barrier can hinder a child’s ability to engage with other children and join their community, and ultimately prevent them from reaching their full potential. We know that BookFun works, but we also have evidence to suggest that we can target the programme even more effectively to those children who are most affected by linguistic challenges,” said Helle Østergaard, Director of The Mary Foundation.

BookFun, which has assisted teachers in strengthening children’s language skills and relationships since 2012, is based on the highly regarded dialogic reading method which focuses on reading picture books in a way that involves the children in discussions about the book, combined with creative activities and play.

Previous follow-up research has shown that BookFun has a positive effect on children’s vocabulary, self-confidence and social relationships; but it also shows that the effect on children who face the most significant linguistic challenges, including bilingual children, can be improved.

“The Egmont Foundation subscribes to the vision of the Early Childhood Pledge (Småbørnsløftet) that all children should have a good childhood and develop the necessary skills to enjoy their school years. Developing language skills in an age-appropriate way is essential to achieving this. With our added support, we hope that BookFun will make a significant contribution to providing particularly the most linguistically challenged children the language support they need early in life,” said Henriette Christiansen, Director of the Egmont Foundation’s administration of aid and grants (Støtte- og bevillingsadministration).

The donation from The Egmont Foundation will go towards a new BookFun course for teaching staff, increasing parental involvement and collaboration with municipalities and experts, as well as on sharpening the focus of BookFun materials to meet the needs of bilingual children. All efforts will build on past experience and on discussions with teachers, parents and not least the children themselves.

The programme will also be developed with an emphasis on adapting BookFun to the enhanced educational curriculum that came into effect in 2018. Throughout the duration of the project, its impact on the children’s language skills and social relationships will be evaluated in order to determine what works and highlight any potential challenges.

The enhanced BookFun programme contributes to the objectives of the Early Childhood Pledge, which The Mary Foundation has co-signed.

FACTS
 

About young children and language
Research has shown that there are significant differences in children’s socio-emotional, language and mathematical skills in early childhood. It also indicates that the conditions for developing these skills vary greatly among children due to differences in their family backgrounds and certain aspects of their home learning environments.

When it comes to language, mathematical and social skills, a large proportion of children are a whole two years behind their peers. At the age of four and a half, the group of children who belong to the weakest 15 per cent have language skills equivalent to that of a three-year-old or younger. The same trends can be seen in connection with children’s socio-emotional and early mathematical skills.

The differences in children’s skills mean that they are not equally equipped to join and participate in the children’s communities in their educational institutions.

Source: Rambøll, Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark: Børns tidlige udvikling og læring i dagtilbud – videnspublikation til kommuner, 2016.


About BookFun
BookFun is a practical teaching tool that, with the help of picture books, makes it easy to work with children’s language and communication skills in educational institutions and childcare facilities.

BookFun has been developed and is managed by The Mary Foundation in collaboration with experts in childhood development and language. The programme was launched in 2012 as the first of its kind in Denmark to work with dialogic reading in a Danish teaching environment and to combine this with children’s play.

In 2012, BookFun was followed by a team of researchers led by professor of developmental psychology and head of The Children’s Language Clinic (Børnesprogklinikken) at Aalborg University, Kristine Jensen de López. Read more about the studies

More than 1,400 institutions and schools have adopted BookFun since its launch. Read more at læseleg.dk.

BookFun features in The Mary Foundation’s work to prevent and eliminate social isolation and foster children’s well-being.


About the Egmont Foundation
The Egmont Foundation is a for-profit foundation consisting of a commercial arm that runs a media business and a non-profit-making arm that seeks to support vulnerable children and young people’s education and life readiness. Every year, the Egmont Foundation donates almost DKK 100 million of the profits from its media business to non-profit initiatives in Denmark and Norway.

The goal of the Egmont Foundation’s non-profit strategy is to enable all young people to complete secondary education by 2030. In practical terms, this means that all children and young people must be able to read, write and do math by the time they leave primary school. And they must have developed the necessary social and personal skills to enable them to make a good life for themselves.

Read more on egmontfonden.dk/int/

About the Early Childhood Pledge (Småbørnsløftet)
The Early Childhood Pledge (Småbørnsløftet) is a pledge made by organisations, authorities, foundations, experts and professionals to give all children equal opportunities to thrive, learn and develop.
The background for this is research indicating that although Denmark is a good place to grow up in for most children, they still experience inequality when it comes to learning, and this has consequences for them that they carry into adulthood.

The objectives of the Early Childhood Pledge are:

  • • For all children to have a good childhood, which includes developing the necessary skills – personally, socially and educationally – to thrive at school.
  • • For the first 1,000 days of all children’s lives to be characterised by them feeling safe and stimulated, so that they thrive right from birth and are given ample opportunities to learn and develop.

Co-signatories of the Early Childhood Pledge commit to taking action to ensure that all children are assured good learning and development opportunities. To date, 108 individuals and organisations have signed the Early Childhood Pledge, including The Mary Foundation.

The Early Childhood Pledge has been defined by the Early Childhood Alliance (Småbørnsalliancen), which comprises a wide range of organisations, authorities, foundations, professionals, knowledge centres, etc., including the Egmont Foundation and The Think Tank DEA.

Read more on småbørnsløftet.dk (in Danish only).

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