Interview with team leader Christine Garbe, University of Cologne
What is your team’s responsibility in ELINET?
Team Coordination and Cooperation is responsible for the overall coordination of the network, the cooperation with the European Commission and the external communication. There is a strong managerial aspect to our tasks; coordinating the work of the Management Board, setting up regulations, monitoring the work of all teams and partners, and coordinating the documentation of all expenses and the reporting to the Commission. We also regularly inform all members about all important topics and the work progress and we are responsible for organising all ELINET meetings and events together with local partners.
What do you hope to achieve with this network?
Personally, I am thrilled that the European Commission initiated the concept of a European Network which coordinates literacy projects and inspires literacy policies on a European level. So, the overall objective of our activities will be the building of a strong network itself. Our network comprises 78 partner organisations from 28 European countries. However, as we have no direct political influence or power, the impact of our work will strongly depend on successfully communicating our expertise to policy makers and stakeholders, so that they will in turn be able to pro-actively address the issue in their countries. For this purpose, ELINET will develop some important tools. We will build a European Literacy Platform, providing information about all countries involved in the network, research results, good practice examples, as well as policy recommendations. All in all I hope that ELINET will help European literacy policies take a giant leap toward our common vision: to give each and every European citizen the necessary tools to prosper in the increasingly intertwined and completely (multi-)literate world of the 21st century.
What are the main challenges?
ELINET faces a lot of challenges. Though I am eager to address the tasks ahead of us, a two-year funding period may not give us enough time to thoroughly tackle European literacy problems. When looking at current political circumstances in Europe - in times of economic crisis and restricted public budgets, educational and social reforms tend to be neglected or cut back - we will need at least one decade to achieve results. Nevertheless, we will put these two years to a good use and lay well-researched foundations for the work ahead of us.
How can those obstacles be overcome?
We developed a very ambitious workplan for our two-year funding period, and all teams are busily working in order to stay on track. I hope the quality and relevance of our work will sweep the Commission off their feet to extend funding and thus the existence of the network. Simultaneously, we are researching other possibilities of raising public and private funds for future ELINET activities.
Personally, how did you become interested in literacy work?
I studied German language and literature, educational and social sciences and history in order to become a high school teacher. As early as at the university, and later even more while teaching at school, I had always been interested not only in texts, like a philologist, but in the exciting adventures that might transpire in the encounter between a reader and a text: What happens in the heads, hearts and imagination of readers when they read a (literary) text? Thus, my research areas and lecturing activities have always focused on reading and literary texts: reading socialisation and reading/media biographies, children and youth literature; gender and reading and reading promotion especially for boys. Since 2006, my work in European projects has been centered around struggling adolescent readers and good practices to support them (ADORE project) and on professional development for secondary teachers in content-area literacy (BaCuLit and ISIT projects).