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Free cultural activities are available in libraries and museums (where events, creative workshops and similar activities take place), as well as there are discounts for certain demographic groups in theatres and in concert organisations.
Libraries provide free internet access to everyone, including children and young people. They also provide possibilities to read the latest periodicals and provide other services, as well as organise thematic exhibitions and events involving children and young people in educating, intellectual and creative classes on a regular basis. Access to the internet in libraries enables the use of not only Latvian digitised information resources, but also those of other countries. Children and young people actively use these digitised Latvian and foreign information and knowledge resources. In these new technological conditions, libraries should take charge of information literacy work among children and young people, create a supply of qualitative diverse information resources, a search and selection system. Every year, public libraries receive state budget co-financing to ensure free access to the internet, computers, and generally available information resources to their readers.
The National Library of Latvia has been implementing activities related to the promotion of reading for several years. Since 2001, the reading promotion programme “Children and Youth Jury” of the Centre of Children’s Literature of the National Library of Latvia has been implemented. In 2007, the programme spread to the Latvian diaspora centres and weekend schools abroad. But since 2012, a special Parent’s Jury was put in place helping to involve families in strengthening reading traditions.
Since the launch, the programme has attracted around thousands of readers. In 2018, the programme had about 20,000 readers from 630 Latvian libraries and schools, as well as 57 Latvian diaspora centers all over the world.
The programme has improved children’s literacy skills and substantially developed children’s literature in Latvia. The best and most exciting books are distributed in the libraries that participate in the programme. Latvian experience with this reading promotion program has been mentioned in the list of the best European reading promotion projects.
The programme consolidates government and municipality financial support for reading promotion. More about the programme “Children, youth and family” can be found here.
The National Reading Competition is a competition for 11-12 year old 5th and 6th grade students, where reading-aloud-champion is determined. The competition takes place in three stages - a competition at a school or local library, a regional final and a national final at the National Library of Latvia. The aim of the competition is to improve children's skills to choose suitable and interesting literature for reading aloud, to stimulate interest in reading and books, to unite children in joint reading activities, as well as to promote the joy of reading.
In 2017, during the first year of the competition, there were around 7000 participants.
It has been inspired by the National Reading Aloud Competition in the Netherlands.
The reading-promotion programme “Book Start” in Latvia is patterned after the United Kingdom’s “Bookstart”, which is a similar programme for preschool-aged children. The programme is aimed at 3-4 year olds and their parents in order to acquaint pre-school age children with the library and arouse interest in books and reading. The programme has been created by the Children’s Literature Centre at the National Library of Latvia and is implemented by the National Library Support Foundation in cooperation with public libraries. During 2017, 47 libraries and 2000 children were involved in the programme.
34 Latvian museums offer visits to individual expositions and exhibitions free of charge to all visitors – 8 museums in Riga, for example, the Latvian War Museum, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, Žanis Lipke Memorial, Museum “Jews in Latvia”, Popular Front Museum (unit of National History Museum of Latvia) etc., as well as 26 local government museums and specialised museums in regions, for example, the Museum of Liepaja, the Jurmala City Museum and both of its structural units, Balvi Municipality Museum, Ogre History and Art Museum, Pastariņš Museum (unit of Tukums Museum), the Museum of Energy of Latvenergo Group, Latvian Road Museum, etc.
In 2017 accredited Latvian museums implemented 9183 classes of pedagogical museum programmes, most of which (5961 classes) were intended for pre-school age children and students of different age groups. The supply of pedagogical museum programmes is updated on an annual basis, taking into account interests and needs of museum users.
In September 2016 an interdisciplinary programme „Latvian School Bag” was launched as a pilot project. The implementation of the programme was included in the Museum Strategy 2014-2020. In 2017, 105 museums and archives participated in the programme, implementing 579 activities.
The most ambitious event of the museum sector in 2017, the Museum Night, in most museums included creative workshops, concerts, games, plays, competitions and other activities for children (including pre-school age children) and families. Museums can be visited free of charge during Museum Night. Every year, state theatres, the Latvian National Opera and Ballet and state concert organisations, as well as other cultural institutions offer events specifically prepared for the children and youth.
The most extensive research conducted in 2016 confirmed that one – fifth of Latvian students had not been to any cultural or local event outside their school – transportation costs and ticket prices were recognised as the biggest obstacle to getting to know cultural and natural heritage. Moreover, extracurricular activities, including learning of culture and history, were largely dependent on the teacher's knowledge or their level of initiative. The project “Latvijas skolas soma” (“Latvian School Bag”) aims to solve these issues by providing funding and offering a methodically accurate, educative range of events for pupils to attend.
National initiative „Latvian School Bag”
In 2018, as part of the centenary celebration of Latvia, a project “Latvian School bag” was launched. The project aims to provide an opportunity for all school-age children and youth (1st to 12th grade, including vocational programmes) to get acquainted with Latvian art and culture (performing arts, music, visual arts, literature, dance, architecture, design and cinema) by attending cultural events during the academic semester.
Conceptual framework of the project is based on four pillars: 1) promoting citizenship, sense of belonging to the state and national identity; 2) improving the quality of education in the sense of the 21st century; 3) raising cultural awareness and expression competence; 4) decreasing the social inequalities.
Educational institutions can receive state funding for the purchase of entrance tickets to the event, payment for the event, as well as transportation expenses for students and accompanying persons to and from the event venue. So far more 240 000 children and young people have taken part in the programme.
In the academic autumn semester of 2020/2021, funding was more than EUR 1.67 million euro. During the four-year period, some 13 million euro or 40% of the funding was allocated extra to the Centenary National Plan of Activities.
With the support of the programme of the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia “Creation of the content of “Latvian School bag””, new high-quality offers are being created, which are available to schoolchildren throughout Latvia.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme has looked for new solutions, and has gathered information on free online cultural events. It includes virtual tours of museums and exhibition halls, access to literary works, online theater performances and concerts, a rich range of films, recordings of radio and television programs on current topics that allow to feel that culture is all around us, also penetrating the content of academic content. Information about these resources is collected and regularly sent to the program coordinators in the counties of Latvia. More information about the programme “Latvia's school bag” can be found on www.lv100.lv/skolassoma.
Latvian Cultural Canon was established in 2008. The Latvian Cultural Canon, similarly to other European countries, has been established as a totality of the most remarkable works of Latvian art and culture, reflecting the most important cultural achievements of the Latvian nation. It includes works in seven cultural fields: architecture and design, cinema, literature, music, performing arts, folk traditions, visual arts.
The Cultural Canon serves as a foundation of cultural experiences of any Latvian, ensuring the sense of belonging to Latvia. Cultural Canon is not a full representation of all the Latvian cultural highlights, yet it serves as an entrance door to the wholeness of the Latvian culture for building further knowledge on Latvian cultural heritage.
Over the years various activities, processes and traditions have evolved around this initiative. In 2017, a website was launched to provide as much information and lead users to diverse canonised cultural artefacts held in the repositories and archives of various Latvian cultural institutions which are related to the Culture Canon. It is an encyclopaedic resource on all the Cultural Canon artefacts including digitised materials, expert videos, textual materials, concise summaries as well as guidance for further research in Latvian memory institutions and their archives. The website is available in both Latvian and English.
Various contests for students, workshops in libraries, schools and museums have ben organised on Culture Canon, there have been interactive games at the National Library of Latvia, as well as awareness raising campaigns on individual Cultural Canon artefacts.
Workshops on Latvian Cultural Canon since 2013 have become a reliable tradition in many libraries and schools in Latvia – by organising meeting with various experts or animators, workshops raise awareness and also discussion on Cultural Canon as a tool for cultural policy, on individual canonised artefacts, on multiple learning tools for understanding the Latvian cultural values by taking advantage of heritage in Latvian memory institutions, on contemporary creativity that is enabled through and by the Canon.
Since 2017 the National Library of Latvia offers individuals or groups to play Orientation game at the National Library of Latvia on Latvian Cultural Canon – by following a sequence of tasks on Cultural canon, a visitor not only learns about the canon and individual artefacts but also experiences the diversity of the collections of the National Library of Latvia and many ways to unlock the Cultural canon – not only through books and reading but also through works of art, original manuscripts, sheet music, audiovisual files, posters, postcards, newspapers, etc.
Since 2012 the Latvian Academy of Culture involves Latvian schoolchildren in the discussion on Latvia's national identity, heritage of cultural values and intergroup solidarity by organising a Latvian Culture Canon competition for 10th – 12th grade students of Latvian general education schools and senior students of art and music schools ntests for secondary school students in all Latvian regions. Since 2012 the Latvian Academy of Culture has organised the Culture Canon Competition for School Youth. The competition is being changed due to current cultural life. Every year a new task is given at the competition, encouraging its participants to research and creatively represent the current events of Latvian culture and art in connection with the Latvian cultural canon from various sources. The competition is currently supported by the Social Cohesion Commission of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science and the leaders of Latvian cultural life. The information on all the before mentioned activities is available here: www.kulturaskanons.lv.