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Every upper comprehensive school in Finland receives gift of 100 new books

The project was funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, which has pledged a million euros to support youth literacy.

Koululaiset avaavat pahvilaatikkoa, jossa on lahjoituskirjoja.
The literacy package includes the biography of Kimi Räikkönen, and has a plain language version of the book that is easier to read for children. Image: Kirsi Matson-Mäkelä / Yle

The Finnish Cultural Foundation, a private organisation, has donated one million euros to provide every upper comprehensive school in Finland with a donation of more than 100 books.

The project is aimed at promoting literacy among upper school students. The donated books have been selected by the Finnish Institute for Children's Literature.

"The reaction from the students is the best part. They show genuine joy and enthusiasm when they receive the books. Many of them grabbed a book immediately and asked when they could borrow it," Lotta Luukila, a project coordinator from the institute, said.

The book donation project was prompted by concerns about declining literacy levels among young people in Finland, especially boys.

Story continues after photo.

Kirjoja pöydällä
In addition to books, the literacy packages also contain various activities and assignments that teachers can use. Image: Kirsi Matson-Mäkelä / Yle

Primary school students have already received their own literacy packages. However, the seeds of future literacy are often planted before children even start school.

Seventh grader Milla Mäkinen tells of reading to her little sister as she opens book packages in the newly constructed library at the Vuores comprehensive school in Tampere, southern Finland. Her sister is especially fond of Winnie the Pooh books, which were Mäkinen's favourite as well in her childhood.

"I can read just about anything," she says.

Mandi Nummela also says that she reads many kinds of books, the Harry Potter series being her favourite.

"I read about 20 pages in the evening, so maybe a book or two per month. Even if you're stressed out about something, you can become immersed in the book and forget everything else for a while," Nummela explains.

Story continues after photo.

Koululaiset avaavat pahvilaatikkoa, jossa on lahjoituskirjoja.
Mandi Nummela (centre) wants to read a book of poems by Kirsti Kuronen from the literacy package. In addition to novels and comics, the packages include short stories. Image: Kirsi Matson-Mäkelä / Yle

Jiro Matikainen estimates that he has read about 100 books in his life. "Comics are quite good," he adds.

Teachers believe that selecting stimulating books is the key to promoting literacy and instilling a love of reading in students.

"We do not give the biggest books to students who we know are a little weaker in reading," explains Terhi Metsälä, a Finnish language and literature teacher at the Vuores school.

The Finnish Cultural Foundation is a private foundation "dedicated to promoting art, science, and other fields of intellectual and cultural endeavour in Finland," according to its website. The foundation funds cultural and educational projects though one central fund and 17 regional funds.

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