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 Service Learning: Reading Project 

As one of several project-driven learning experiences, ASL offers Service Learning in which the participating BA students independently plan, organize, and host social projects throughout the course of the summer semester 2011. The following blog by Katharine Hinz, Jennifer Kirmse, and Larissa Rahm is intent to capture their experiences in detail:


Project Description

For our Service Learning project, we propose to implement a reading project in cooperation with the children's medical unit of the Uniklinikum Leipzig. In this context we would like to motivate hospitalized children to read themselves by offering reading-aloud-sessions. We thereby not only intend to improve the children’s literacy skills and convey the joy of reading, but also attempt to make the hospital stay more pleasant and thus contribute to speeding up the children’s healing process. Furthermore, we would like to encourage the hospitalized children to create their own stories, which would be written down and combined in a book.

As we were told that the first possible meeting with the head of the clinic, Prof. Dr. med. Wieland Kiess, would be in June, we thought about implementing a similar project in cooperation with the Freie Schule Leipzig. The Freie Schule Leipzig is a democratic all-day school, combining grades 1 to 10. We could imagine realizing a reading project in the form of a project week during the summer holidays, on a certain weekend, or as an extracurricular activity during the week. The reading project could include reading-aloud-sessions, a creative workshop resulting in the creation of a book, visits to the public library and readings from authors of children’s books and books for young people. We could maybe even introduce the idea of “book buddies”, a concept where older students read aloud to younger students, thus strengthening the sense of community among the students, as well as improving their literacy and social skills. (KH)



Update May 10, 2011

As far as contacting the potential project partners is concerned, we have approached several institutions.

Since the initial idea was for the project to take place in the children's ward of a hospital in Leipzig, we contacted the head secretary of the Uniklinikum Leipzig, Ms. Liedemann, via email. Additionally, we wrote an email to the Kinderhospiz Bärenherz Leipzig hoping for the opportunity to support them with our reading idea. The overall outcome was an appointment with Prof. Dr. med. Wieland Kiess, the head of the Uniklinikum, set to be in June. Being yet uncertain about what the outcome of this meeting will be, our group decided to take action during the time until June in that we contacted another possible partner. While doing internet research we came across the Freie Schule Leipzig whose concepts and projects deeply impressed us. Agreeing that healthy school children might be interested in our reading project as well, we contacted the school's secretary. We are currently awaiting their response, hoping for the opportunity to hold our sessions during summer vacation or in their after school care center. The positive answer of the Freie Schule would by no means imply that we are no longer interested in running the project in the clinic as well. In fact, our concept and strategies are possibly more developed by then and we could work with the children more effectively. For additional partners we established email contact with the associations LeseLust Leipzig e.V. and Buchkinder Leipzig e.V. They have experience in terms of reading aloud projects for children and compiling books of children's stories. We are hoping to hear from them soon since we would appreciate their advice or even material support in the form of books etc. to present to the children. We are excited to hear from our potential partners. (LR)

Update May 20, 2011

As we contacted our potential partners last week, we are waiting for a reply. On Wednesday we decided to contact our potential partners via telephone, to make sure they get out email and receive any feedback. When we talked to them, they told us that they have yet not decided about the project, but they are very excited about it.

Since we cannot plan with our partners, we already started the promotion of the project. We created a page on Facebook, using our description from this blog, to inform other people about us. When our potential partners will join us, we would like to add them to this page, too, to inform other people about our partners and their field of work as well.

Furthermore, we will contact our potential partners on Monday again.

However, we will start to think about the layout of a commercial poster and a presentation poster, and therefore we will write the first short texts.

We are excited to hear from our potential partners and to hear their feedback on our idea. (JK)



Update May 27, 2011

This week, we mainly concentrated on keeping in contact with our potential partners, namely LeseLust Leipzig e.V., Buchkinder Leipzig e.V., and Freie Schule Leipzig.

On Tuesday, we received a very positive response from Caterina Mempel, the chairperson of LeseLust Leipzig.  Ms. Mempel showed great interest in our project and offered her support. She further informed us about two basic workshops on reading aloud to children taking place in June (18./19.06). We would very much like to participate in such a workshop as it would not only be a great opportunity to learn more about the dos and don’ts of reading aloud to children, but it would also help us in choosing adequate and interesting books for them. http://www.leselustleipzig.de/workshops_einsteiger.html
Our contact person at Buchkinder Leipzig e.V. told us that our inquiry had currently been passed on to the person in charge and promised us a prompt reply.
As all of the students and teachers of the Freie Schule Leipzig are on a school trip this week, they will discuss our project proposal on the school meeting next Tuesday and will afterwards inform us about their decision.
This week, we also tackled the question of a memorable name and logo for our group project. After researching how to create a logo, and reviewing a number of samples, we drafted several different logos and came up with tentative group names, trying to highlight our wish to support the children’s healing process by reading books together. (KH)

Update June 3, 2011

In the past week, we have moved on with our project in several respects. Firstly, we further maintained contact with our partners and potential partners.

We learned that the Freie Schule team has debated about cooperating with us. As our contact person Christine Smers pointed out, they would be happy about a meeting with us, which can unfortunately only take place in the week of June 20.

Caterina Mempel, the chairwoman of LeseLust Leipzig e.V., kindly confirmed their interest to support us with our project, and gave us further details on the reading aloud workshop our group is going to attend on June 19. This is the one of the two offered ones she considered valuable for us. We are looking forward to acquiring useful extra skills and knowledge for the sessions with the children.

Furthermore, we were informed via telephone that Buchkinder Leipzig e.V. would also be willing to support us. Yet, we need to specify in what ways the organization can help us because material or financial support from their side is not possible. Since we are not planning to have great expenses and much more depend on mental support and preparation/advice, this does not pose an issue.

Overall, we are very excited and glad about the positive responses and we will stay in contact with our partners to discuss the following actions.

Concerning the visualization, the ideas for the group project's logo and name became more concrete. In our opinion, the recent draft of the logo reflects the aspects of our work: the children and us communicating and reading together, in a clinic, seated towards each other, having a community (shown by the frame of the book). We still need to further discuss in what ways we will use the name and logo, for example on flyers or a poster in the hospital to inform the children and their parents about the project.

For next week we are looking forward to our date with Prof. Dr. med. Wieland Kiess, the head of the clinic. (LR)



Update June 12, 2011

This week was a week of success. On Monday, after a phone call to Buchkinder Leipzig e.V., we received a positive answer and set up a meeting for Wednesday. When we finally met, Solveig Marcus, one of the initiators of Buchkinder, showed us an easy way to bind a book. The technique is called Japanese Binding, and thankfully we won’t need expensive materials to establish the books for the children. Unfortunately they cannot support us with materials as they are mainly sponsored themselves, but we are glad to have their help concerning the technique.

Another success of the week was the meeting with Prof. Dr. med. Kiess. During the meeting, we explained him our project, and he was very enthusiastic   about it, and mentioned that he would like to support us. Therefore, he announced the work of the ''Helfende Engel e.V.'' to us and phoned Gabriele Duda, the head of the nursing service in the center for Women's and Children's medicine.

Ms. Duda showed us around the clinic and one room of the ''Helfende Engel e.V.''. She also explained the work of this association. We then discussed our project with her and agreed in joining the ''Helfende Engel e.V.'', but we also came up with the decision of implementing a motto day at the clinic. During that day we will read to the children and establish a book with them. The day will be set in July 2011.

Additionally, Ms. Duda gave us the contact details of Ms. Monika Stader, the contact person for the ''Helfende Engel e.V.'', and introduced our idea to her. Together, we will set the date for the motto day and we will work on the program.

With the agreement of the Universitätsklinikum Leipzig, we can finally introduce the name and logo for our project - "Read and Recover". (JK)

Update June 19, 2011

 This week, we first of all arranged a meeting with Ms. Monika Stader, our contact regarding “Helfende Engel der Kinderklinik Leipzig”, for Wednesday, June 22, to further plan our sessions with the hospitalized children.

Additionally, we participated in one of the two basic workshops on reading aloud to children that Ms. Caterina Mempel recommended. “Which body parts do you think are essential for reading aloud to children?” With this question the workshop started and after learning that practically all body parts are involved when reading aloud, we went through a number of warm up and stretching exercises.

We then concentrated on exercises to train our voice (e.g. making buzzing noises like a bee) and learned how to breathe correctly and the importance of having a good posture.

After these exercises, every participant was asked to read a passage from the book he or she brought to the workshop. The feedback was very helpful and it became clear that you have to read slowly enough in order to be clearly understood and to let the listeners digest what they heard.

Finally, we talked about the importance of preparing a reading aloud session with children and to practice reading aloud the book beforehand. (KH)


Update June 25, 2011

This week's progress of our project included another meeting at Universitätsklinikum Leipzig. On Wednesday, June 22, we had a conversation with Ms. Monika Stader, who is responsible for coordinating the voluntary work at the hospital, particularly the “Helfende Engel der Kinderklinik Leipzig”.

The overall result of the meeting is very positive. Ms. Stader was eager to hear our plans and ideas, and willing to take further steps with us. She could well imagine our reading sessions to take place in the pediatric stations. Therefore, she considered it helpful and necessary to contact the head nurse of this station, Elke Krause. Ms. Krause can inform us in detail about the different age groups and characters of the children that are currently in the hospital, which will help us greatly when planning and holding the reading sessions.

Furthermore, we had discussions about the continuation of our project after this semester, and Ms. Stader came to tell us about an adult's library that is currently being set up at the clinic so that adult patients will be able to spend their time with books instead of watching TV or lying in their beds without any occupation. We found this a brilliant thing to do, and together with Ms. Stader we developed the idea of initiating such a library for children as well. For such a project, our reading sessions could be an incentive or a at least a way of receiving feedback on how reading books is seen by the kids.

We consider this a great way to continue our project since the needed books for the readings would be present in the clinic already and need not be brought from public libraries or private collections by us, the readers. This could either be supported by us or the next group taking the Service Learning Module.

For now, we are expecting to hear from Ms. Stader by the beginning of next week. Once Ms. Stader is informed, we will be getting into contact with her in order to set up appointments for the reading sessions. (LR)



Update July 5, 2011

During the last days, we tried to contact the hospital again. The problem is, that this area is a very busy one, and it is hard to figure out a date for the reading aloud sessions, but we will keep on getting in touch with her.

We also had a meeting with Ms. Sharpe, our instructor in the Service Learning seminar. She gave us an amount of German and English children books which we can use for our sessions in the hospital.

For the next days we planned on setting an appointment with Ms. Stader, and we will try to find a date for the motto day. (JK) 


Update July 30, 2011

In the past month, we proceeded with our Service Learning project in several aspects.
On Wednesday, July 13, we met with the head nurse of the pediatric ward, Ms. Elke Krause, who was very enthusiastic about our project. Together, we set a date for the proposed project afternoon (“Mottotag”) and the individual reading aloud sessions.
The project afternoon, in effect, took place the following week on Tuesday, July 19. The project afternoon was aimed at a larger group of hospitalized children and focused on the children’s personal experiences during their stay in the hospital. During this afternoon, the children were encouraged to create their own little booklets containing stories and drawings describing their hospital stay in order to express their thoughts, experiences, and possible fears regarding the hospital and their own situation. The project afternoon took place from 2 to 5 pm and was greatly appreciated by the children. Overall, about 11 children, aged 4 to 9, took part in creating the booklets during the project afternoon. The positive response from both the children and the medical staff highly encouraged us to think about a repetition of such a project afternoon.
On July 21, we presented our project and the results up to this point at the Service Learning Symposium and we were happy to receive a very positive feedback on our Service Learning project.
Furthermore, we already conducted the first individual sessions during the last week on July 26, 27, and 28. The sessions, usually taking place Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2 to 4 pm, are each carried out by a different member of our group. During these sessions the group members read aloud to the hospitalized children, but also play games or do handicrafts depending on the children's wishes. (KH)



Update August 7, 2011

We have successfully continued our Read and Recover project at the Universitätsklinikum Leipzig in the past few weeks.

For three afternoons each week, one of us students is present at the children's ward, spending time with the children. The reactions are always very positive, also on the staff's side.

Since the procedure of a session is very much depending on the mood of the participating children, we have to be very flexible. We do not only plan to read, but also play games with the children, draw impressions of the read stories, or simply talk. Usually, there are always a few children lying in their rooms on their own, either watching TV or having no major activities to do at the moment, so they are ready to spend time with us. Of course, no child is forced to be read aloud to, but most of the time, they are happy about our visit and welcome the change.

The children are of different age groups and therefore interested in varying books, e.g. fairytales and animal stories for younger ones, and adventurous stories and such for the older children. Mostly, the reading audience consists of one or two young patients. Sometimes, they are satisfied after one reading, and sometimes, they are enthusiastic to hear more. We often move into the leisure room afterwards, where a hospital care worker and other kids may be, to play games and draw.

Overall, the project so far is an extreme success and it is becoming routine that we appear in the hospital every week. The staff is very welcoming, and all participants enjoy the experience. (LR)


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