Many students have problems reading and understanding texts. Thus, they run the risk of losing the social connection very early. Mentor helps you with simple but effective means.

Girl reading book (Fotolia)
The lyrics are easily passed over to young Lina, she reads the sentences quickly. It’s about spring, the sprouting nature, the green that unfolds everywhere. The snow has melted and it is time for the plants … what is the right word: “to emerge”? Not quite. “Thawing,” explains mentor Karen Gartner, a banker’s main occupation, her student and talks to her about the blossoming nature.
Reading, shows the small scene that the nonprofit association of reading helpers Mentor publishedon his website, is more than just the art of deciphering words and sentences. Reading is much more.
“Reading also means extracting information from texts,” says Margret Schaaf, chairman of the Mentor Association, in a conversation with DW. “Reading means putting information together and understanding the content of texts, and teaching them to do so is our main concern.”

One fifth of all students read badly

Mentor was founded in 2003. At that time, the Hanoverian bookseller Otto Stender noticed that a number of children had difficulties to follow the reading lessons in elementary school. So he and his wife invited two children to read along with them – the birth of Mentor. Since then, the association has grown steadily, currently around 11,500 volunteer reading assistants are involved under its roof nationwide.

Symbolbild Education Germany School Learning Reading Textbook (picture-alliance / dpa / T. Eisenhuth)Text and child: more often a difficult relationship

The helpers have a lot to do. The most recent International Primary School Reading Survey (IGLU) of December 2017 brought it to light: One fifth of all ten-year-olds in Germany can not read mind-set. This puts Germany far behind in the international ranking, from fifth place in 2001 to 21st place fifteen years later. This does not mean that children living in Germany are now reading much worse. Instead, other countries – such as Latvia, Hungary and Lithuania – have invested so much in the literacy of their offspring that it performs better. But it shows: reading weakness is not a fate.
However, if the offspring are not helped, they are at risk for life, says Margret Schaaf. “Young people lack a basic ability to survive in the modern world.” Lack of reading skills initially led to poor grades in the school, but ultimately far beyond. “Those who can not read have no access to texts and books, they do not understand them, so they no longer have a chance in any discipline, and this continues in their later lives People who are not part of the modern flow of information lose their way in many ways, that worries us and that drives us. “

Schools rely on individual help from mentors

Margret Schaaf, 1st chairwoman of the Federal Association of MENTOR - Leselernhelfer eV (MENTOR - Leselernhelfer eV)Committed to reading: Margret Schaaf

Depending on the students’ requirements, the mentors work at very different levels. “Some need help reading letters and putting them together into whole words,” says Schaaf. Such children need a lot of training, so that their strength at some point not only go into the pure reading, but they could also deal with the substantive aspects of a text. “Above all, these children need help understanding words and texts, they need to learn to extract information from texts and put them together, and then their content becomes accessible.”
Despite the many volunteer reading assistants, their number does not suffice, says Margret Schaaf. For at the same time, reading promotion had been reduced in many schools. In addition, integration and inclusion schools often took on new tasks – without adequate staff and material resources. New forms of recreational behavior, in particular surfing the Internet, also played a role. “All of this means that in schools we are repeatedly approached by teachers who ask us if we do not have other mentors.”

Icon image of elderly woman child vacation (imago / Westend61)You can not start reading soon enough – granny and grandson in front of the laptop

However, the mentors do not supervise student groups. You only work with one child at a time. “Our mentors then meet this child every week for a lesson,” says Schaaf. “It would be better to have two lessons, but that is difficult to achieve.” It is crucial to look after the children regularly. It’s very important to be responsive to the child because it is the only way the child experiences attention and affection in a way that opens it up to learning, and not necessarily just reading. “

A volunteer, many reasons

Reading assistants are involved in many countries, says Margret Schaaf. “After all, there are children around the world who have problems with language and reading, so basically I see the need everywhere to give children access to education, especially when they do not have access to education School can be guaranteed. “
In Germany Mentor still wants to win many volunteer reading assistants. “For my concepts,” says Schaaf, “there are no reasons to reject such honorary work because it is very manageable – and also fulfilling.”


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