Young people actively promote reading

As one of the UPSHIFT winning teams, the Cool 7th Graders received a small seed grant and mentoring to put their ideas into action.

Jelena Obucina
Marko, Nikola and Ilija hold their favourite books.
UNICEF Serbia/2020/Obucina

11 March 2020

Novi SadNo one reads, really. When we have required reading [and we have to write about it], we just copy from each other.”  This is what Marko Begovic, member of the Cool 7th Graders team, realized in November 2019.

For Marko and his friends, Nikola and Ilija, this was a wake-up call and it motivated them to apply to UPSHIFT, a programme for the development and active participation of young people. It is being implemented by UNICEF, in cooperation with its partner Razlivaliste.

The workshop in Novi Sad helped them analyze the problem in their school, design solutions and make a plan to achieve their goal. As one of the winning teams, they received a small seed grant and mentoring to put their ideas into action.

Initially, the Cool 7th Graders procured books and a bookshelf for the school library and devised a strategy to make reading more appealing to everyone at school.

Three months later, the team is satisfied. Team member Nikola Markovic explains how they chose the books.

"We picked books based on the librarian's recommendations and a peer survey. We got Harry Potter, It, The 39 Clues and various books which are interesting to children from grades one to eight in our school.”

Cool 7th Graders team member, Marko Begovic, thinks about how to promote reading in his school.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/ Stanislava Vucetic
Cool 7th Graders team member, Marko Begovic, thinks about how to promote reading in his school.

The book collection of the Djura Danicic Primary School library in Novi Sad has now been expanded by more than 100 titles, which is only one of the ways of making students more interested in reading. The librarian, Karmen Antic Tunic, says that the library usually procures only books from the required reading list.

“What the boys managed to do is fantastic. They procured books which are quite expensive for a small school library to purchase. Even when the school is able to procure books, it’s only a copy or two. The boys managed to get a significantly larger number.”

The boys’ mentor, Kristina Palic, who followed their progress, is proud of them. She says that it’s often challenging for young teams to persevere and finish a project, but that this wasn't the case with the Cool 7th Graders.

“Over the course of three months, the Cool 7th Graders implemented everything they had envisioned and completed the project. They utilized the budget and purchased all the books they could”, says Kristina. 

By working with Kristina, the team learned the basics of project implementation: how to identify needs and the target audience, how to manage a budget and monitor the impact of their activities.

The team and their mentor are happy with the results of their project.
UNICEF Serbia/2020/Obucina
The team and their mentor are happy with the results of their project.

The Cool 7th Graders devised how to poll their peers, and then conducted the research and consultations with the direct beneficiaries of this venture. This helped them to improve critical thinking and other skills. The team knows that procuring books is not enough. That’s why they’ll use Instagram to encourage their friends to read.

Ilija Stojsin believes that the project has already had a positive impact on him.

“I’m not an example of a kid who really likes reading books. After this project I stared reading them a bit more. I hope my friends will do the same,” says Ilija as he leaves for the party that the Cool 7th Graders organized to celebrate the purchase of new books.

UNICEF and Razlivaliste will continue to implement the UPSHIFT programme across Serbia in order to reach as many young people as possible and provide them with the opportunity to participate in these workshops.