Elements of library and technology activities in the field of science and technology: permanent training courses; reading commissions on the popular science edition for adults or for children and adolescents; focus on the future La Villette media library and its children’s space; mini database of science and technology.
Some details on activities in libraries, especially in the field of science and technology; reading commissions on publications of scientific popularization for adults or children and teenagers; the future La Villette Media Center and its special space for children: the state of the art; mini database of science and technology.
The association “Reading to Understand” was officially born more than two years ago. Its goal is to bring together pedagogues, librarians and documentarians, authors and scientists on issues that concern them in various ways: the promotion of popular science books for young people. This birth is the realization of an idea initiated during permanent training.
How is a reading commission born?
The starting point of this group was therefore a course organized at the Massi Public Library in November 1980. It brought together the problem of popularizing scientific librarians, teachers, scientists, authors and publishers. The program offered to the participants was aimed at responding to the situation analyzed in the following terms:
“The general public and the educated public are increasingly interested in science, whose role in our future is decisive. Therefore, there are more and more requests for scientific and technical works, and librarians are mostly educated for literature. The variety of topics covered, the vocabulary used, the speed of development of certain sciences and, often, the high price of scientific papers make librarians sometimes hesitant to procure in this sector “.
During the round table, which ended the course, the present collection directors and scientists talked to librarians about how to improve the popularization of science for young people and inform publishers about the needs and requirements that need to be met to achieve this goal.
Therefore, based on this request, we formed a working group for the popularization of science of about twenty people (librarians, scientific authors, teachers). It relied, on the one hand, on the Massi Public Library, and on the other hand on. “Relais nature Joui-Velizi”, a kind of field library that receives young people to introduce them to the environment. The organizers of the Relay, and especially one of the librarians, Annie Adam (who also provided the educational organization of the internship in Massa), shared their experience in youth documentaries with the group. They are indeed acutely confronted with the use of nature books, which must correspond to the observed reality and provide additional information, either because they are not the result of direct observation or because they describe experiences that provide additional information.
The beginnings of the group
We first came up with the idea of choosing topics, analyzing books around these topics, and publishing analyzes in journals that reach different audiences (La Recherche for Scholars, Trousse-livres for Librarians, in this case).
Cooperation with groups working in the same direction was also necessary; Thus, the section of popularization of the science “Joy through books” was presented at our meetings, not, of course, to duplicate the research, but on the contrary, to complete it, which is very necessary. The scope of the case largely justifies the division of labor.
It remains to define the rhythm of work: a meeting every two months during which we analyzed part of the recent production of documentaries, with an emphasis on very popular topics: biology, astronomy, prehistory.
In the beginning, it was difficult to get to our working tool: a book in the press service. Editors who did not know us should have been informed; analyzes published in La Recherche helped us to convince them of the seriousness of the venture. Some collection directors were invited to working sessions where books from their publishing house were analyzed. It seemed very important to us to know, for example, how a collection like “Le Monde en poche” was designed by Nathan; how the authors were selected; Bernard Sassier, director of the collection, received our criticism as he explained and defended his point of view. Meetings of this type have been held several times (Ashet, Hatier, Albin Michel, etc.).
Association and fact sheet
After a year of group activities, everyone felt the need to structure this work, which we did with pleasure, but without a clearly defined goal: if our work remained in the circle, it remained a bit sterile. The goal was to disseminate information in order to have a greater impact. Therefore, in July 1982, we founded the association “Reading to Understand” whose goals are to: – promote the exchange of opinions between teachers, librarians, scientists, authors, publishers and all those interested in spreading knowledge; – provide technical and pedagogical assistance to organizations involved in the popularization of knowledge, promoting the exchange between these organizations.
We also felt the need to have our own publication that would complement articles we publish in other journals; our public is precisely targeted: we strive to reach scientists through the analyzes that appear in La Recherche, on the other hand, this information sheet is intended for teachers and librarians. Appearing every two months since the beginning of 1984, it contains reports from the working sessions of the group (especially exchanged opinions on the studied books), as well as more developed analyzes, signed by the members of the association.
A project like “Read to Understand” needs sustainability and material support. The assistance provided by MIDIST (Inter-Ministerial Mission for Scientific and Technical Information) of the Ministry of Research and Industry and the Ministry in charge of the environment enabled the provision of a secretariat and the establishment of the first issues. The Masi Public Library provides technical assistance and hosts us.
Compare points of view
Our work is organized as the group develops. But there are some clear questions that we have not yet answered. So, wouldn’t it be necessary to confront us with certain scientists who sometimes have too much complacency in endeavors that are too “commercial”, even mediocre? Are they aware of the impact on young minds of the text they wrote in a hurry, without asking themselves any questions about the reception that a child can give to concepts they consider obvious? Do they hear the questions of their readers who, closed in a given cultural context, do not have access to the explanations of “those who possess knowledge”?
The interest of this group is its diversity. She favors a confrontation of views that do not always agree. Librarians and scientists have very different approaches to books: sometimes it is harder to defend an interesting pedagogical approach than to criticize scientific errors. Our analyzes are therefore an opportunity to challenge some of our assumptions. Take, for example, the problem of anthropomorphism that some condemn: should these criticisms be made a permanent principle? it is enough to see children reading La Hulotte to understand that anthropomorphism, used, it must be said, with a lot of humor, facilitates understanding. Also, we know how to distance ourselves from the reasoning of adults: what seems ridiculous to us is not necessary for a child, what seems to us to make reading easier for a beginner can irritate him, even distract him from the book. to risk being stupid.
We have also stated that we qualify our opinions and moderate our requirements: a documentary that fills a gap in the editing must be retained, even if it is not absolutely perfect. In any case, it is very rare for a popular science book to have flaws from any point of view. We try not to neglect or favor any opinion in our analyzes and to remain nuanced and careful in the choices we offer.
Wide selection of topics
We have gradually diversified the topics we are dealing with: the reading commission analyzed history books, others books on nature. We plan to study books that, in order to convey information, show children questioning adults; many were born – one of the last being Man and His Origins: Interviews with Claire Professor Grace (La Farandol) – and this process has always been used.
We plan to deal with both the problem of illustration and a complex issue such as, moreover, the translation and adaptation of foreign popular science books. This is an example of a topic that we will cover soon.
In the short term, we start with a review of encyclopedias intended for or available to young people aged 6 to 14. We have selected a dozen books of this type and then we will see how they can be used – and how they are actually used in libraries and schools. Indeed, one of the dimensions that seems important to us, and which we try to test whenever possible (unfortunately, impossible in the case of novelties), is the way young readers react to these books.
Expand our audience
We need to expand our audience, especially by establishing more contacts than they currently have with school librarians. In the coming period, we will multiply initiatives aimed at the school world, proposing trainings, preparing a selection of about 500 documentaries (which should be the subject of a special edition of “Read to Understand”, early 1985) which we want to distribute widely in schools and colleges in the Paris region.
Through all these actions, “Read to Understand” continues its efforts to raise awareness among publishers and scientists about the need to increase the number of French authors in this field, to encourage publishing to be more demanding in terms of seriousness, rigor, quality. . Scientists should be warned about the excessive number of books of poor quality, in order to participate more actively in the production of books for children; librarians, teachers who transfer books to the public, must be informed about the different qualities of these books. “Read to Understand” tries to bring them together for better quality popular science books.
Relais nature Joui-Velizi
Reading Comprehension Association