Drive to put more books in schools

A 3-million-euro project to put more than 50,000 books in schools was launched on Friday amid concerns that Greeks are not reading enough.

The scheme was unveiled in Thessaloniki, where local government officials said that 50,000-60,000 books would be delivered to 960 schools but that some 200 authors and illustrators would also work with teachers in a bid to make reading more attractive to youngsters. The scheme will cost 3.1 million euros and will be co-financed by the European Union.

?We are trying to revive hope through reading at the young and tender ages,? said Central Macedonia regional authority official Theodoros Kartsiotis.

?We want children to show an interest in books again, to look upon reading as a game, not just as part of the stricter school environment,? said Kostas Kastoularis of the National Book Center (EKEVI), which is assisting with the scheme.

The program, which has already been piloted in some schools this year, will include games and exercises that pupils will engage in with their teachers. Authors and illustrators will also visit schools to discuss their books.

Sources said that the initiative reflects fears about Greek children?s literacy skills. In the last, triannual Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey of 15-year-olds, which is run by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Greece scored considerably below average. Other European countries, such as Italy, Spain and Austria, also fared badly. South Korea came top of the rankings.

Research by EKEVI earlier this year also revealed that Greeks are reading fewer books. The average number of books read by Greeks in a year is 5.6 compared to seven in 1999. Only 8 percent of Greeks read more than 10 books a year, while 41 percent of the population does not read a single book during the course of the year.

Almost 40 percent of those questioned said that they did not have enough time to read, while the average amount spent on books each month is 11.60 euros. More than 1,500 people were questioned as part of the survey carried out by EKEVI.