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First-ever international visitors welcomed 환영 to the International Centre for Shared Reading from Seoul

Written by Rachael Norris, 12th August 2019

Four students studying social welfare at Yonsei University in Seoul were the first-ever international visitors welcomed to the new International Centre for Shared Reading at Calderstones Park in Liverpool.

With support from LG Global Challenger, the group, called Hye-yoom, is conducting a year-long project that focuses on reading for students with special educational needs. Natalie Kaas-Pontoppidan, Learning and Quality Leader at The Reader, talks about the group's first encounter of Shared Reading.

On the 9th of August, we had the pleasure of welcoming Hye-yoom - a project group consisting of four Korean students from Yonsei University, who are all majoring in Social Welfare. With support from LG Global Challenger, they are conducting a year-long project, which focuses on public reading education for students with special educational needs in Korea. They were particularly interested in visiting The Reader, because we believe in the magic of reading for pleasure with children, and according to our visitors, this isn’t a typical approach in the Korean school system or society.
In order to see the magic happening live, the students were invited to an Incy Whincy Rhymer session in The Storybarn. Here they made lots of new little friends and they came back reporting how wonderful it was to see that even tiny children can get something from books – even if it’s simply the joy of turning the next page before running off into the Storybarn’s robot for a new adventure. After the session, Hye-yoom got a chance to speak to our Storybarn Operations Coordinator, Natalia. They were curious to know how we inspire children to read in a world full of screens? And what if the children can’t concentrate or doesn’t want to read aloud? In fact, these are questions, we are often asked by parents or participants on our First Page courses as well. Natalia did a fantastic job in explaining that getting into reading might take time. Perhaps you start off with one page and from that one page you include props or start to build your own story together. Rather than having to sit through a whole story, it’s about being flexible and making the most of the child’s concentration that day. In the same way, Natalia explained that in Shared Reading with children, we are less interested in how many ducks the children can count on the picture, and more interested in how the ducks might be feeling or where they are taking off to. It’s not about right or wrong – it’s about bringing the imagination to life.
Finally, we finished the day with an adult Shared Reading session – a huge thanks to the Calderstones volunteers and group members who joined us! We read the poem ‘The way it is’ by William Stafford, and it was moving how our visitors related to the line: ‘People wonder about what you are pursuing/You have to explain about the thread’. Their thoughts on how that seems to be every student’s struggle really resonated with both myself and other group members, and it was interesting to wonder about this ‘thread’ – whatever that may mean in our respective lives. It made me think that Shared Reading is a fantastic tool for connecting people across cultures as well. Hye-yoom is moving on to Finland where they’ll do some more research, and we wish them the best of luck going forward or: 행운을 빕니다.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
By William Stafford

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