The project “Reading Nest” of the Estonian Reading Association was born in 2004 with the aim of providing teachers with new skills on how to adjust the reading environment in pre-school and primary school, and make books and reading activities more attractive to children. Later the idea spread into libraries, homes and elsewhere.
The project “Reading Nest” was launched in order to:
Increase children’s interest in books and reading;
Support children’s initiative and creativity;
Grow positive behaviour through good use of children’s free time;
Foster the development of learning skills and prevent learning problems related to low reading experience;
Inspire teachers with new ideas and views and encourage their creativity;
Involve parents in the cooperation between home and school, encourage parents to set up a literacy environment at home too;
Include community in the work of a school.
The idea of a new reading environment was introduced by the then chair of the Association Meeli Pandis in 2003, who was enthused at a training course for the Step by Step programme in Lithuania where child-centred learning in activity centres, incl. reading centres, was presented. This gave rise to an idea to also popularise reading centres in those kindergartens and schools where the Step by Step methodology was not used, and involve families and community in helping to set up such centres and arrange activities.
It was a lucky coincidence that the Embassy of the Netherlands had opened an application round for MATRA-KAP projects and Maili Liinev (née Vesiko), a student of special education at Tallinn University was interested in writing her master’s paper on the topic of reading. The name “reading nest” was suggested at a family discussion by Meeli’s daughter Made, and communicates the sense of safety and cosiness which initiators of the project wished to emphasise.
The Association’s logo was designed by speech therapist Kadi Künnapuu at a training course for mentors of reading nests.
At an Association’s meeting the objectives and an activity plan of the project were drawn up, a system of mentoring was devised and an application for funding was written which proved successful. The project was officially launched in August 2004 with the first training seminar for future mentors at Tallinn University. The topics covered were: setting up, operating and furnishing a reading nest, children’s different reading styles, skills and interest in reading, and training for adults. The course had 86 participants, of whom 54 became active mentors of reading nests. One group of mentors comprised teachers from Russian-speaking schools and kindergartens, consecutive interpretation was made available for them.
From the very beginning the project aimed to disseminate knowledge on literacy environments and to ensure these ideas reach as wide an audience as possible. In October and November 2004 the first 54 mentors trained teachers all over Estonia, each in their own region. Each mentor trained and supervised 10-25 teachers. Modern research-based approaches to reading as well as the importance of a reading environment were introduced to participants, along with practical advice on how to set up reading nests in classrooms. In the first project year 1042 kindergarten and primary school teachers attended training in total. On the whole the project included 194 institutions: 112 kindergartens, 68 schools and 14 primary schools with kindergarten groups.
The project received funding from the Embassy of the Netherlands in its first year, as of 2006, funding was provided from the Gambling Tax Council. By the year 2012 the Reading Nest had outgrown its project-phase and evolved into a training system whose vision is “the reading nest as a mentality”.
To this day, within the Reading Nest project, over 200 mentors and over 4000 teachers have been trained across Estonia.
The Reading Nest is the Reading Association’s most successful initiative, which is still very much in full swing. A special feature of the project was that it was largely based on voluntary input, and from the very beginning dissemination of information from teachers to teachers followed the snowball effect principle. Setting up a network, collaboration with like-minded colleagues, sharing experiences and learning from each other have been valued highly from the word ‘go’. The Association’s annual conferences have brought together practitioners with their fresh ideas and latest research results.
The project has been practical and hands on. Simple guidelines help teachers to realise what the essential features of a literacy environment are and how to create a similar environment in a classroom. It is extremely important that mentors as project trainers are also practising teachers. They have set up a reading nest in their classroom and can tell from first-hand experience how such a place can impact children’s motivation to read and develop literacy and what wonderful things may be undertaken in the nest.
The Reading Nest project’s first project manager Maili Liinev (née Vesiko) defended her master’s thesis “The reading environment in a children’s establishment: setting up and operating a reading nest” at the Chair of Special and Social Education of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of Tallinn University.
The quantitative study included 227 primary school and kindergarten teachers, who had participated in a training course delivered by a mentor of the project. The thesis also contained a case study, in the course of which a reading nest was established, then its operation was studied, and opinions of the teachers and children were investigated.
Meeli Pandis and Maili Liinev at the annual conference of the Estonian Reading Association in 2005.
Anneli Laamann, the Reading Nest project manager for North Estonia and Kaja Kivisikk, the Reading Nest project manager for South Estonia at the conference in Tartu in 2010.
Project manager Maili Liinev at the Reading Nest conference in 2005.
WHAT IS A READING NEST?
A reading nest is created in a kindergarten, school or library or elsewhere in cooperation, where both the children and the adults are creators who make a cosy place in which to browse and read books.
The reading nest should have something soft and comfortable in it, the nest is somewhat separated from the rest of the room, books are displayed well, and there are reading games, toys and other items that its visitors like. The nest could tempt children cunningly too, a splendid car with a car book in the nest might do the trick and spark interest in books.
The reading nest is a place with a purpose, created with love and care. This is the place for reading, looking at pictures, browsing, or playing games.
If, after reading this, you would like to set up a reading nest, we have some advice:
Furniture in a school or a kindergarten classroom is arranged so that it enables a child to “slip into the nest”, and work alone, in a pair or a small group.
Furniture and furnishings are soft, cosy, wholesome and age-appropriate. Thus a reading nest might have cushions, a sofa, an armchair, a rag rug, shelves, a table, chairs etc. Children can use various sources of light and do their reading on their own or with others.
Books/materials are accessible, age-appropriate, thematic, varied, interesting, at different levels of complexity, and change according to topics covered in the study programmes. The reading nest should contain a variety of texts: books (fiction and non-fiction), periodicals, applied literature, manuscripts and books created by children. The nest should also have audio books (CDs, MP3 player, digital reading pen or other form of digital systems), materials for writing and crafting (papers, pencils, crayons, scissors, paints, a paper hole punch, string, a staple punch, leftover materials etc.), reading and picture materials, reading games, board games and creative games (puppets, costumes etc.).
A reading nest has a sign to show that it is a reading nest (logo). Rules/agreements of the reading nest are displayed and visible to everybody.
Children who may need some help in discovering the written word, would benefit from using a digital reading pen (a digital device without a screen), which enables the child to explore texts independently. The reading pen reads pre-recorded books, asks questions and riddles, and provides immediate feedback. The advantage of the reading pen is the absence of the screen, and the child is able to discover real (paper) books, maps, drawings etc. in an exciting and interactive way.
Should the reading nest have a computer? Teachers have a difference of opinion in this matter. If the computer is an older model and unsuited for gaming, it can be used by younger children who can create texts (even if lines of letter) and obtain literacy. An up-to-date multimedia computer or digital device would allow playing various games enhancing literacy, do search and create texts. However, the reading nest should not become another computer lab.
It is a matter of agreement between teachers, children and parents whether and how technology is used for writing in the nest. If agreements are concluded and followed, a computer would be of great help. Furnishings and tools should not be limited to modern technology only. Children are similarly interested in old-fashioned tools, such as slate pencils, chalks and chalk boards, quills and pens, or typewriters.
As for books and other materials it is important that they change and alternate hand in hand with learning topics. A reading nest could also have some dear old picture and fairy tale books, which are always available, but certainly fiction, popular scientific and research texts should be available in accordance to current topics in studies.. Craft and writing tools and games should also be re-circulated every now and then, this helps to make the nest more attractive, prevents cluttering and ensures a cosy and tidy environment.
A cosy place to snuggle in, an accessible array of texts, and handicraft supplies - they would only come to life if there is a supportive mental environment:
Positive mood which entices entry into the nest, an attractive selection of texts and books, which fosters interest in reading.
Recognition of little (even tiny) achievements.
Example and joy from collaboration - both from peers and teachers. Parents, authors and people with interesting professions could be invited to the nest, for example a footballer, actor or chef could talk about their favourite books.
Good company and safe reading mates, nests are frequently inhabited by a mascot, made by the teacher, parents or children.
When children accept the nest, and they have regular opportunities to do things in the nest, use books during class or free time - they would enjoy being in the nest.
Inclusive learning culture - children and parents alike feel that the nest belongs to them, they are engaged in setting up and furnishing it, and planning activities. Rules/agreements have been composed or revised with children, rules are worded positively.
Activities devised by the teacher - playful and appealing - should enable discovery of various aspects of literacy and foster positive emotions.
The reading nest has a sign and a logo, and adults and children have discussed why the nest is important and the children know they are always welcome in it.
What the impact of reading nests is, teacher’s role and many more facts and stories about literacy can be found HERE
The Reading nest book is HERE
If you already have a reading nest, mark it on the map HERE
Reading nest at the kindergarten “Sipsik” in Tallinn.
The Reading Nest was awarded the title of the best European reading project of 2007.
The Reading Nest project has brought Estonia fame abroad as well, being awarded the International Reading Association Award for Innovative Reading Promotion in Europe, which is issued every two years.
It was specifically emphasised that the project is grounded in contemporary, research-based views on the development of literacy and motivation, and the importance of free reading in the process. The project is particularly recognised for its sustainability and the method for dissemination of ideas, which has enable it to reach hundreds of teachers in a very short timeframe and with rather limited resources.
Project manager Maili Liinev and Chair of the Estonian Reading Association Meeli Pandis presenting the Reading Nest project in Croatia in 2005.
Estonian Reading Association
Reading Nest is the project supporting literacy of the Estonian Reading Association
Lugemispesa idee autor: Meeli Pandis
Lugemispesa nime autor: Made Pandis
Lugemispesa logo autor: Kadi Künnapuu
Maili Liinev, Anneli Laamann ja Kaja Kivisikk
Lugemispesa viiside autor: Lennart Liinev
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