Culture / libraries

A year of reading

Rediscovering reading

The year 2021 is the year of reading in Croatia. What started as a proposition by the Ministry of Culture was accepted by the Croatian Government in December 2020. A series of events, activities, and programs will be implemented this year to encourage a culture of reading and literacy. 

The initiative is a part of an action plan and national strategy dating back from 2017, with a duration of five years, purposed to encourage reading in the wider public, raising awareness of the importance of reading and literacy, and with a series of events to make reading a habit that society will enjoy and read with pleasure and understanding. 

Let’s read so we don’t lose our words

The 2017 strategy brought many changes in terms of raising awareness. During the Year of Reading, many cultural organisations created a yearly list of activities and events. With the pandemic affecting mobility and the number of people available to attend events, the emphasis is put on strategic planning and a set of new activities that were never done before. 

Events will include awards for the best library, introducing the reading ambassador, organising an international conference about reading, hosting literature awards for the youth and using local libraries to organise small night readings. 

Zagreb’s Library (Croatian: Knjižnica Grada Zagreba) will lead the campaign and will organise The Book Night, Croatian Book Month and Zagreb’s Library Best Reader Award, as well as free membership to everyone younger than 15 years. 

The US Embassy is partnering with Zagreb’s Library and will introduce The American Corner in which visitors can explore both Croatian and American culture. Also, it will be a place to mark the Day of Media Freedom on the 3rd of May and the International Day of Literacy on, 8th of September. 

As an addition, the library will make available the application Zaki Book for its members. The application enables the rental of e-books for children. 

Programs backed by the Ministry of Culture and Media

Following the action plan of the national strategy to promote reading, the Ministry of Culture and Media organised a public invitation to allocate financial support and stimulate literary activities. From more than 220 programs that enlisted, 89 were chosen to be sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, with total funds of 2,205,000 Croatian Kunas.

Additionally, a new initiative aimed at libraries, organisations, and anyone involved in culture and art, was organised as a part of the Efficient Human Resources operation plan, funded by the European Social Fund and the Ministry of Culture and Media, at a total amount of 41 million Croatian Kunas. 

The goal is to include vulnerable groups, children and youth up to 25 years, those older than 54, unemployed, people with disabilities and members of Roma and other minorities in the program to further develop their reading and literacy skills. 

One of the projects supported is the opening of a newly refurbished Dominican Library Hijacint Bošković in a Dominican monastery in Zagreb, marking its 94th anniversary. Today’s library has more than 40 thousand books and 200 articles, mostly dedicated to philosophy, theology, religion, and human science. The library is set to digitalise its archives, which will be available online.

All of the events planned for this year, organized by the Ministry and organizations involved in the strategy will be promoted officially as the main goal is to improve upon the current statistic stating that only 48% of Croats regularly read books. 

The importance of reading and literacy

Research completed by Valicon shows that almost half of Croats read frequently as their favourite activity. Differences were noted between genders; 47 per cent of women read at least one book per month, compared to 39 per cent of men. 

Reading provides a better understanding of interpersonal relationships, communication and is a powerful tool that can help people to cope with life challenges. 

According to the research published by the Research Gate, reading helps to grow emotional intelligence and tolerance, self-confidence, improves quality of life, and benefits society in general. 

So, do you have your ‘books I want to read this year’ list? If not, get cosy and start planning! Maybe even your coffee catch-ups with friends will turn into book clubs!

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