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SIE Interviews Tito Lammerhuber of KulturBauStelle

Tito Lammerhuber is the chairman of  KulturBauStelle, an Austrian association to support intercultural cooperation. He took a key role in the planning and organization of the project “Reading can be Hazardous to your Stupidity”, a reading motivation project in Ebenfurth.

The project includes a monthly, multilingual children’s library and an annual reading motivation project called “We Make Our Own Book.” The library offers multi-lingual story times, and the annual book-making project creates an opportunity for intergenerational, interinstitutional, and multilingual interaction. The project is one of the winners of the annual SozialMarie award for socially innovative projects in and around Austria. 

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I’d like to hear more about how this project works. What do children do at the monthly multilingual children’s library? Who participates in the “We Make Our Own Book” project? What social benefits have you seen as a result of these projects?

Once a month, multilingual story times are held for kindergarten and elementary school children. Mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas are invited to read to their children and grandchildren in two languages. Also students from elementary school read to children from kindergarten. The technical equipment of the school library is used and the children can enjoy snacks afterwards. Since 2007 on average almost 15 children have taken part in our monthly story times.

The annual writing and reading motivation project “We make our own book” allows students in their first year of elementary school to write an animal story (“First Rate Animal Stories” 2010/11) or their own family story (“First Rate Family Stories” 2011/12), first in their mother tongue, and then in a second  language of their choice. The students have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in narrating, painting and writing, they become acquainted with the value of reading as well as with the importance of books.

The more esteem and empathy you show to the fellow citizens with different mother tongues, the less problems you will get in kindergarten, in school and consequently in the community. Many different mother tongues can be seen as an extra work load for teachers - some parents are displeased with so many “Turkish classmates” of their daughters or sons. But the plurality and diversity of different mother tongues can be seen as enrichment for each student, too. You just have to talk to all of the parents, teachers and students and to do such projects. Then they will be able to see the success.

What inspired you to begin this work?

This project is part of the comprehensive integration project  ”Sprache – Leben – Kultur” that started in Ebenfurth in 2006. Different activities were developed like language courses in German for migrants, the “Kulinarische Weltreise Ebenfurth”, a monthly multicultural cookery course, a weekly consultation-hour at the municipal office and social work in secondary modern school. The project is conceived as an umbrella project from the kindergarten children to the mothers with foreign roots.

A main part of this project is to improve the German of the children in kindergarten and elementary school. The prior condition to learn a foreign language is to be fluent in your mother tongue. The multilingual children’s library, the multilingual story times and “We make our own book” have been generated on this assumption.

Are you aware of any other organizations working towards similar goals or working with similar methods?

There are other organizations working towards similar goals in Lower Austria. They are primarily specialising in language courses in German for migrants and refugees. I don’t know any other organization that cooperates so closely with all of the educational institutions, the municipal council and interested citizens. 

Do you think that this model could work outside of Ebenfurth? Outside of Austria?

I’m quite sure that this model could work outside of Ebenfurth, or outside of Austria. You just have to screen the circumstances exactly and focus on the necessities of a kindergarten, a school or a municipality. You need citizens or organizations that are keen on creating and implementing projects for a better coexistence. I’m convinced you can find such persons everywhere.

You were one of the winners of the annual SozialMarie award for socially innovative projects. Has this benefitted your work?

I’m pleased about the honour such an award means and - of course - I’m glad about the money. It’s not so easy to get money for private social work. Additionally this award allows us to participate in the Summer School 2012.

Social Innovation Europe is working to put projects like “Reading can be Hazardous to your Stupidity” in the spotlight. What else can the European social innovation community do to support your work?

Maybe you could help us find another source of capital.

To get in touch with Tito, please contact lammerhuber@bkf.at