Davide Amante interview on the World Cities Culture Forum

Here the link to the original source: Article by Expo Magazine

Milan to host World Cities Culture Summit 2020, interview with the novelist Davide Amante to better understand the value of this announcement.

The city of Milan will host the World Cities Culture Summit in October 2020. We asked the novelist Davide Amante, living in Milan, to better explain this initiative, his point of view on the administration of the city and the opportunities it represents. Cultural leaders from around the world have been sharing practical policies and actions that can ensure culture and creativity can thrive and contribute to the continued success of their cities. Milan has been chosen to host next year’s summit due to its diverse population, cultural vibrancy and its role as a leading city for cultural workers.
We meet in the novelist’s attic in the very center of Milan, from where there is already an impressive visual representation of the city: from the Duomo of Milan to the ancient domes of the churches to the modern glass skyscrapers of the most recent parts of the metropolis.

Do you agree with the decision to host the World Cities Culture Summit in Milan?
Yes, definitely. In my opinion it is a well deserved and relevant choice for the city of Milan. The World Cities Culture Summit is a singular event: originally wanted by the mayor of London, it managed over the years to involve over 40 of the world’s most active and culturally engaged cities. So we are already talking about the excellence of world culture – as expressed by the cities – and the fact that Milan has been chosen for 2020 Summit is even more significant considering the competitors. It must also be said that it is a network of metropolises that collaborate, therefore it should not be seen as a real competition, rather a common sensitivity and attention to the theme of culture and creativity, in the broadest sense.

Why was Milan chosen?
Because Milan is vital, exuberant, intense. Sometimes even rude, as often happens when there is great vitality. But I see a committed Milan, which moves forward with confidence, generous, bearer of solid civic values, and which is constantly changing. And where there is movement, there is always poetry.

Do you think the Milan Universal Expo 2015 led to this appointment?
No, I do not think so. It is right to cite it as a flywheel because the Expo gave a big and necessary shock to Milan, involving everyone, even the skeptics. And certainly this push has also reverberated extensively on culture. But culture and creativity have always been part of Milan in its history and despite the somewhat superficial and frivolous opinion that some have of a city that revolves almost excluysively around money, those who know Milan also know that it has always traveled on cultural and creative coordinates of the highest level. The difference, if anything, is that the city has always wanted to combine economic interest and business with creativity, and in my opinion this is right.
Expo 2015 has perhaps highlighted Milan’s commitment to culture in the wider international context of these recent years. But the culture and creativity of Milan are quite another thing, they must be seen in a much broader historical context. And this without taking anything away from the Milanese administration that has done well in my opinion.

Your conclusion leads directly to the next question: do you think the Milan administration helped obtain this appointment?
Yes, I think the administration of recent years has done well. Milan has always had a moderate tradition that, without wishing to enter into political discussions that have little to do with me, has proved to be industrious and effective. I find that the current mayor Giuseppe Sala, with his team, and especially the Culture councilor Filippo del Corno, have worked well in the interest of the city in these years. I think this is a good time for Milan, all things considered.

Can you explain to us what cultural characteristics make Milan worthy of hosting the Summit?
Milan is a Renaissance city that, despite what many may think, has always focused on culture, art and creativity. In Italy there is a tendency to see culture and art as something constituted and complete, after all the many art cities of our country and Rome itself are saturated with art and unfortunately there is often a tendency on the part of many to recognize as art, only that which comes from the past and which has already been recognized by others. Art, on the other hand, is innovative, breaks the rules of the past to create new ones, true art never follows the rules because it creates its own rules, and is almost always confusing for contemporaries who face it the first time. I am thinking of the Arte Povera movement (born in Turin but immediately understood and relaunched above all from Milan), I am thinking of the Transavanguardia movement, music, the great tradition of illuminated Milanese publishing, unfortunately disappeared, I think of that multitude of specialized and refined artisans who have always found in Milan an exceptional client, willing to spend and invest, I think of the exceptional phenomenon of fashion itself.
Giving Milan that role of financial capital, although technically understandable, means not having understood anything about the Milanese and Milanese families. It is precisely when we have the financial availability that we understand that without curiosity, without the soul, without the dream to give a direction, money would lead nowhere to boredom. For this reason, it is precisely in a metropolis as rich as Milan that the need to surround yourself with art and culture can be understood more than anywhere else and just like in any other metropolis of the world.
Milan has always been a Renaissance city in the sense that culture and creativity – not that of the past but that of the future – have always been in its ropes. Milan is a great capital of Italian creativity and soul, often never recognized enough for this.

You are a writer and screenwriter, how do you see Milanese literature?
When there are no longer large publishers willing to take risks and able to understand literature, administrators and newsrooms remain, and this is not good because you risk filling bookstores with a forest of small ideas represented by small stories and with a small literary competence. In recent years, however, the Milanese publishing tradition is finally reborn with many small but very aggressive and quality-conscious publishers. I think this publishing should also be supported with cultural initiatives that fit well into the broader framework of the World Cities Culture Summit 2020.

How do you see the role of women in this modern, culturally sensible, Milan?
This matter of equality in the roles and powers of man and woman, I see it completely out of time, ridiculous. The problem should not even exist anymore and instead, unfortunately, there are still people convinced that there is some qualitative difference. Mediterranean countries have a tendency to suffer a little more of this ignorance and inequality. However Milan has the advantage of being a modern city projected globally, it is a city that has little time for prejudices and looks forward to results, consequently Milan knows well that there is no difference. In fact, I’d rather see more women in key roles than men, I tend to trust women more.

You live in a central, historical area of the city, how is the quality of life?
The quality of life is high and in recent years I have seen a continuous tendency towards improvement. Compared to other cities in the world, Milan has a unique balance. The city manages to maintain a dialogue and a human dimension, while running and working internationally. It is a refined mechanism that the other metropolises, although sometimes more efficient, fail to understand. I believe that much has been done in recent years to improve the city, both by the administration and by the citizens. It seems to me that many, on a local level, have understood the importance of taking this step and the results begin to be seen.

Can you explain how the World Cities Culture Summit 2020 works?
To my knowledge the World Cities Culture Summit is basically a network of metropolises on all continents. The first summit took place in London and the idea is to bring together culturally virtuous cities that want to collaborate in realising common policies in favour of culture. This Summit carries a common thought that culture and creativity have a decisive impact on planning and policy-making regarding large cities. Each year a city is chosen for the summit, which is basically a programmatic meeting among the highest leaders of each city. All other cities contribute to electing the host city every year and it is clear that the election takes place on the premise that the hosting city has shown sensitivity and attention to cultural and creative issues.

What opportunities can this summit bring to the city?
This summit is an excellent opportunity to discuss the best practices in Milan with regard to developing culture and creativity. Let us not forget that in Milan in particular culture has always been an important economic driving force, to which many local entrepreneurs have historically participated. In a broader sense culture and creativity give meaning to the economic productivity of the city, redistributing richness through culture, creativity and cultural initiatives to create new stimuli and new paths which again can bring advantage to the city. It is a virtuous circle in which entrepreneurship and culture walk hand in hand, ultimately benefiting everyone.

In your opinion, what can Milan improve about culture?
Milan needs more courage on the themes of culture and creativity. The World Cities Culture Summit is a new stimulus in this sense. If we are able to take up this boost toward culture, the courage to have done so will be rewarded, because a more educated city is a city more ready to face the future and to create wealth.

This interview with Davide Amante was originally released in Italian by 900letterario.it magazine.

Official site of the World Cities Culture Summit

Official website of the Municipality of Milan

Information page regarding the Milan hosting

Dialogic reading explained by author Davide Amante

Here we publish the full text of the interview published by LaRepubblica.it

We interviewed the novelist Davide Amante, to better understand what is ‘dialogic reading’ and how it facilitates and stimulates children to actively participate to the surrounding environment by reading a book.

Davide Amante, can you explain what is dialogic reading?
Dialogic reading is the process of developing a dialogue with the children around the text they are reading. In dealing with reading, the adult often reads the text and the child listens. On the contrary, with dialogical reading, the adult stimulates the child to actively participate to the story and become the “storyteller”.

Is dialogic reading effective?
In my opinion, yes, it is very effective and useful.

What are the origins of dialogic reading?
Dialogic reading is often presented as an innovative and avant-garde tool, even if with a bit of exaggeration. It has been theorized in recent times for example by the Interactive Reading Model by David E. Rumelhart in 1977 and then even more specifically by Grover J. Whitehurst in the early 2000s, with the Stony Brook Reading and Language Project, in an attempt to offer a solution to the lack of dexterity and talent in solving problems, highlighted in particular in the children of the less well-off classes in the United States, who rarely had the opportunity to read books. It is a commendable and important initiative, which has allowed the school to tackle and partly solve this problem.

Is dialogic reading an avant-garde tool?
Dialogic reading is an important tool and should certainly be promoted, especially in Italy and throughout Europe. However it has very ancient origins. For example, in our literary tradition, both in the north and in the south of Italy, it was common for peasant families to gather in the evening around the fire and involve children in oral narration or in reading fairy tales. This reading, from the child’s point of view, was not passively played by listening to adults but on the contrary it consisted of spending the evening reading some pieces and interpreting their meaning together. The children asked questions, dwelt on a detail of the story, proposed an interpretation of the narrated facts. The adults, in turn, responded, widened, approved or discussed the interpretation of the facts advanced by the youngest. And so, often, under the stars and in the heat of the fire, families pushed themselves into unknown territories and ended up creating new oral stories. They were fascinating and stimulating diversions that ended with a return to reading the text. Many of the most beautiful Italian fairy tales were born this way. Just think of the attempt to collect the folk tales that author Italo Calvino had drawn from the various Italian regions. Or even some truthful scenes from the film ‘L’Albero degli Zoccoli’ by Ermanno Olmi, shot in the 1970s. These were none other than what today we call dialogic reading. In America itself, where the term of dialogic reading was first widely used, the native Indian populations did more or less the same thing.

So, although the term “dialogic reading” originated in the United States, it actually pre-existed.
The educational system of the United States has had the great merit of trying to bring the concept of dialogic reading back to a method, which can be used anywhere by the school. In this sense it is certainly at the forefront and is a very effective tool.

Can you explain dialogic reading in detail?
Dialogic reading is based on the consideration that the “way” in which we read to children is at least as much important as the “frequency”. When an adult reads to a child, he often holds the book in his hand and the child listens. Dialogic reading consists of an interaction between adult and child: the adult asks questions to stimulate the children to explore the text at a deeper level and so an active dialogue is established during which definitions of new words and analysis of the parts of the dialogue or narration emerge, as well as the ability to express a child’s own opinion on the story itself. In other words, dialogic reading is a guided reading method that stimulates the child to interpret and criticize.
In the case of younger children, everything revolves around a simple sentence and an illustration, with more grown children, for example, attention is directed to discussing a paragraph just read by the adult and how the concept was treated by the author.

Finally, the function of dialogic reading is to stimulate the child?
Yes, it is an active participation by the child in reading. And it happens thanks to the interaction with the adult. This aspect must be given the right importance because it is, in my opinion, extremely useful for two reasons. The first is that the text, the fable, becomes an aggregator element for the family, which involves everyone with their opinions, thoughts and even digressions on the subject, which in turn are very important because they are based on the experience of each individual family and allows the child to understand that one’s personal experience is comparable with the world, indeed it constitutes the world. The second important reason is that the child learns through the method of dialogic reading to interpret the surrounding world and therefore become intelligent: the word ‘intelligent’ itself originates from the Latin ‘intelligente’ which literally means ‘reading into things’.

Do you consider dialogic reading a complex method for the family?
Not at all. Dialogic reading is very simple. It consists of sitting with the children and dedicating time to them, but based on quality, that is, a written text. Just read and then talk about what you read.

Where is the dialogic reading carried out?
At home above all but it is interesting to see that the method of dialogic reading is beginning to take hold in schools as an educational method. If in the United States it is now acquired as a method, in Italy and Europe it can be defined as still experimental. In this sense it is innovative and it is a good thing. The scholastic method is obviously a little more complex than what we have said here, for example it is implemented through the PEER sequence and the CROWD prompts. But these are technicalities that we can talk about elsewhere, which concern more specifically teachers. Dialogic reading in its essence is simple and direct.

As a novelist, are you involved with dialogic reading?
Well, my main activity is that of the novelist, however yes I do participate to dialogic reading sessions, invited by public or private schools, either in Italian or in English. Reading with children is something exceptional, their understanding of texts is actually very deep.
In the future I would like to partner with an association of some kind and develop a dialogic reading program. I think it would be a great stimulus for children and adults to promote reading.

You are a novelist and we know that you recently wrote The Guardian of the Stars – Anais’ journey with the wind, an international success, for children and adults. Do you consider The Guardian of the Stars a book suitable for dialogic reading and can you give us some indication of which books are most suitable?

Honestly, any text is suitable for dialogic reading because a lot depends on the desire of the adult to start a discussion on the text together with the child. Certainly The Guardian of the Stars – Anais’ journey with the wind is suitable for dialogic reading with children from 8 onwards. The important thing is to turn to authentic texts, written by non-improvised writers, starting from the Little Prince by de Saint Exupery, The Wind among the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, My family and other animals by Gerald Durrel, The old man and the sea by Ernest Hemingway just to say a few.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels