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Finland sees uptick in reading during coronavirus crisis

One in four people in Finland said they read more than usual this spring.

Kuvassa nainen selailee kirjaa.
The coronavirus slowdown gave many the time needed to return to or pick up a reading habit. Image: Katriina Laine / Yle

The coronavirus crisis has prompted Finns to turn to literature more than usual, according to the results of a recent survey by the Finnish Reading Centre.

"Of course we secretly hoped that the results of the survey would be positive but this was a pleasant surprise," director Ilmi Villacís said.

The survey results showed that 23 percent of about 1,000 respondents, half of them parents, said that they had been reading to their children more than usual during the epidemic. Many said that children themselves had requested their parents read aloud to them.

"Reading and intimacy probably create a sense of security and peace during these strange times," Vilacís added.

Pandemic makes space for reading

The NGO head said that the organisation had recently been doing a great deal of work to encourage parents to read aloud to their kids. Now however, it seems that the quarantine conditions caused by the epidemic has created the perfect conditions for a surge in reading.

Many respondents said that a scarcity of shared time had been the biggest reason that reading had been overlooked during regular everyday life.

"Now that the habit has taken root, you could imagine that they will remain hooked," Villacís stated.

A similar survey conducted in the UK found that 11 percent of parents said that they'd read their children a bedtime story for the first time during the coronavirus crisis.

"The corresponding percentage here would be much smaller because the bedtime story tradition is strong. Finland is still a nation of readers compared to many other countries," Villacís said.

Comfort from books

The main reason for a surge in reading by adults was also said to be that there was more time for it. With many everyday activities on hiatus many respondents turned to literature. They also sought comfort and distraction from books.

"The book is still a competitive user interface alongside all of the video streaming services," Villacís said.

The survey did not distinguish between print, electronic or audio books. Rather, it considered content, in other words, whether readers opted for fiction or non-fiction.

Villacís said he hoped that the enthusiasm for reading uncovered during the pandemic would remain.

"The results are an encouraging demonstration of the importance of literature and reading."

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