Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat kicked off National Reading Month at a Women’s International Zionist Organization daycare center in Tel Aviv on Thursday, reading to a group of young preschool children.
“It is important to provide inspiration for parents to sit with their children and encourage them to read and even to learn to hold a book at a young age,” Livnat told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Livnat, who has young grandchildren of her own, read the Israeli classic A Tale of five Balloons, followed by The Lion that Loves Strawberries, one of the children’s favorites.
“My hope is that these children will develop a lifelong love and desire for reading,” said Livnat.
The minister read to the children at the daycare center as part of the nationwide “More books – less screen time” campaign launched by WIZO during National Reading Month to promote reading among children and their families.
“Children today have become passive, sitting in front of the television or their iPhones as opposed to spending quality time with their families,” said World WIZO president Tova Ben-Dov.
“We want to encourage the parents to take the time and sit down with their kids and read a book or have a conversation.”
According to Ben-Dov, children at WIZO daycare centers are “flooded” with books all year round so that they can develop a love of reading from an early age.
The women’s organization spends a great deal of funds and efforts to train their educators to provide the children and their families with added- value schooling. Children at the daycare center partake in weekly activities from yoga to dance and movement to develop their motor abilities, as well as English lessons and basic computer tutorials.
“We are not just babysitters, we like to think that we provide education for the entire family,” Ben-Tov said.
The classes, activities, and staff at the WIZO daycare center in Tel Aviv, as with the majority of the organization’s daycare centers across the country, are widely sought after by parents.
According to Hassida Danai, chairwoman of the Early Age Division at WIZO, there are some 500 children trying to enroll in the Tel Aviv daycare center alone – though only 50 spots are available.
“We are currently working around the clock,” said Danai, who explained that registration for the next school year was underway. “We are overwhelmed with the amount of families that want to enroll their children [in WIZO daycare centers] – every year there are more and more people but very few spots remain.”
To date, the organization operates some 180 daycare centers across the country for around 14,500 children.
“The Economy Ministry promised 600 new daycare centers, but only seven were built,” explained Ben-Tov. “There is a lack of daycare centers and the Economy Ministry wants to encourage women to go to work – but how can you do this without the facilities?” According to Ben-Tov, “the ministry must build more facilities to help working mothers,” who would otherwise have to send their children to the alternative – expensive private daycare facilities, which often provide fewer services at double the cost.
“Not only for the mothers, I see how the children open up and flourish here, they are happy and we embrace them and teach them and want only the best [for them],” said Ben-Tov.