Literacy: Why the Finns read well.

Finland consistently is at the top of international comparisons of reading skills and school outcomes, although they start school later than most countries and study fewer hours. Here are some considerations copied from a Finnish web site.

Social structures that support reading:

  • high esteem of reading in Finnish culture (homes subscribe to newspapers, parents read for their children at home); literacy as the basis for further learning is widely accepted; constructive role of the news media in creating good publicity for the promotion of reading and writing
  • large and dense network of public (municipal) libraries; modern equipment, good collections and quality supply for the whole family (newspapers, books, on-line-links); library staff eager to promote literacy in co-operation with schools (“books-worth-reading” counselling, new titles recommendations etc.)
  • the social status of mothers as an important role-model for girls: high educational attainment of Finnish women; salaried work outside home; women read more than men
  • the ample supply of foreign films on television provided with Finnish sub-titles instead of dubbing; while watching television, children read, developing a quick reading routine
  • net surfing, text messages and role games have increased reading and writing as a leisure habit of the young (although it has decreased the reading of books)

Factors pertaining to instruction and the Finnish language

  • the “shallow orthography” of the Finnish language (“what you say is what you write”) gives extra advantage in the initial phase of learning to read
  • the national core curriculum stresses the strategic skills of reading and writing; free choice of methods; supportive assessment of pupils
  • wide choice of learning materials; the teachers are free to choose the materials they want to use
  • pupils are involved in choosing the reading material used in instruction; youth literature, magazines, media texts
  • small number of immigrants in Finland; children usually learn to read in their own mother tongue (including our Swedish-speaking minority)
  • schools and teachers are involved with campaigns to promote reading as a pastime
  • long-term collaboration with libraries, newspapers and magazines
  • Curricular development in all subjects to promote reading and writing skills and to increase the knowledge of literature
  • Improving school libraries and promoting collaboration between schools and municipal libraries
  • Improving reading and writing skills as a collaborative effort between basic education and special needs education
  • Reading comprehension, especially the improvement of deductive and critical reading strategies in all subjects
  • Writing different genres of texts and learning through writing in all subjects
  • Improving pedagogical methods for educating boys in the areas specified in the project

Reading Finland – Changes Desired

  • to raise the skills and knowledge of the weakest performing quarter
  • to develop methodologies to increase reading among boys
  • to improve methods for teaching writing skills
  • to have the pupils read more, both at school and in their leisure time
  • to develop school libraries, and to increase collaboration between schools and municipal libraries
  • to increase school visits of authors
  • to increase cross-curricular activity in the areas specified in the project
  • to improve deductive reading skills
  • to bring all the teachers together to improve reading comprehension and writing skills
  • to improve the methodological skills of primary teachers
  • to familiarize the teachers better with literature aimed at children and young people
  • to strengthen the cooperation between homes and schools to support reading and writing skills
  • to develop the teaching of Finnish as a second language and the teaching of their mother tongue to immigrant children

Finland does not administer any national reading comprehension test during the nine years of basic education, nor are there national tests in other subjects


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