As a student I saw that many of my peers had difficulties understanding textbooks, and so these were often memorized. Therefore, I decided to focus in my research on how to write textbooks that would be easily understandable for students. In search for relevant scientific articles I often encountered articles and books by the International Reading Association. This is how I became one of the people who had the idea of founding the Estonian Reading Association.
The idea of the Estonian Reading Association was shared by the employees of the University of Tartu Library. We contacted the lecturers of Tallinn Pedagogical University and found even more supporters. The founding meeting of the Estonian Reading Association was held on May 9th, 1992 at the University of Tartu Library. Participants included lecturers from University of Tartu and Tallinn Pedagogical University, library employees and others, approximately 12-15 people. We discussed our strategies, statute and chose the management board. As the first president of the Estonian Reading Association we chose docent Aira Lepik.
The first meeting of the chosen management board was organized by Aira Lepik on June 16th, 1992 in the University of Tartu Library. The agenda included registering the Estonian Reading Association and our action plans. Among the latter we discussed launching of projects and collaborating with FinRA (Finnish Reading Association). Under discussion were also preparations for the IRA Development in Europe Committee’s autumn session taking place in Tallinn, and we received an overview of the founding of the Latvian Reading Association. From the materials of this meeting I can find the following names: Kärt Miil from University of Tartu Library, Valdur Lulla from Tartu regional department of education, Karl Karlep from University of Tartu, Larissa Jõgi from Tallinn Pedagogical University, Tiiu Puik.
The second meeting of the Estonian Reading Association took place on August 27th, 1992 at Tallinn Pedagogical University. On the agenda was revision of the statute and preparations for the International Reading Association initiatives in Tallinn. There were three: 1) Leadership workshop on 16-17 October, 2) Development in Europe Committee’s autumn session on 17-18 October, and 3) Estonian Reading Association’s conference on October 19th, 1992. In addition, we also received information about the first National Reading Congress in Moscow.
For the International Reading Association it is a tradition that the new president is chosen a year before the actual accession. Doris Roettger had been chosen as a president for years 1993-1994 and she decided to tour the newly freed Baltic countries in order to get acquainted with the work of the new reading associations before assuming the role of the president. My task was to coordinate Doris Roettger’s visit in Estonia.
At the Leadership workshop on 16-17 October 1992 the topics were: founding of the reading associations, leadership, solving financial problems, qualities of a good leader and international cooperation. The discussions were led and presentations were given by the IRA elected president Doris Roettger, the director of professional development division Brenda Townsend and the head of international collaboration committee Alastair Hendry. Presenters included also the president of the Swedish Reading Association Ulla-Britt Persson, the president of FinRA Pehr-Olof Rönnholm and the president of the United Kingdom Reading Association Alastair Hendry. Shorter presentations were given also by the representatives from Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Romania, Iceland and Norway.
The first conference of the Estonian Reading Association took place in Tallinn on October 19th, 1992. There were 45 participants at the conference: foreign guests, lecturers, librarians and students. The opening speech was held by Doris Roettger on the topic „Reading and writing in the 1990s“. Her presentation had been translated into Estonian language for presenting at the conference. Ulla-Britt Persson from Sweden talked about reading being far more then what can be seen with the eyes, and Adela Rogojinaru’s topic was about reading programmes for educators. There were four speakers from Estonia: 1) Jaan Mikk – reading and study materials, 2) Karl Karlep – designing reading techniques in Estonian language, 3) Valdur Lulla – reading skills to understand troubled thoughts, and 4) Ilmar Tomusk – functional illiteracy through the eyes of a teacher.
At the time we were motivated by freedom and desire to do something in order to develop reading skills in Estonia. This is how we felt, and such an assessment was written down also by Alastair Hendry in his summary of the Leadership workshop.
The Estonian Reading Association founding idea came from university lecturers and librarians. Thanks to the first president of the Estonian Reading Association we managed to quickly develop good relationships with reading associations from other countries and blend in with the international community. By now many teachers have joined the reading association and many interesting projects have been carried out. An excellent overview of the Estonian Reading Association’s activities can be found from their homepage www.lugemisyhing.ee.
The seed that was planted 25 years ago has thrived, thanks to all the previous and current members and leaders of the Estonian Reading Association.