31. January 2019

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.

Authored by:

Simone Bodholt

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