'New Kind of Illiteracy': Reading Performance Among Swedish Children Hits Historic Low

CC0 / / Child with book
Child with book - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.10.2021
While trade professionals lamented that reading has been given a lower priority due to bureaucratic requirements for teachers, earlier reports highlighted a growing knowledge gap between native-born and immigrant students, to the point of illiteracy.
The desire to read among children in Sweden is at historically low levels, according to statistics compiled by the trade magazine Läraren.
Compared with other member states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Sweden is in the bottom league when it comes to young people's desire to read, according to a Teachers' Foundation report called "A reader-friendly country" based on the Pisa reading performance survey for 15-year-olds. Of the 37 OECD countries, only the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and Switzerland are worse off than Sweden.
Furthermore, it's a downward spiral. In 2009, 39.4 percent of 15-year-olds stated that they only read if they have to, in 2018 the figure jumped by 17.5 percent to 56.9 percent. Among girls, the situation is slightly better. While a whopping two out of three boys read only if they have to, every other girls does.
The change is apparent even in schools, according to Läraren. Devastatingly, many students have never read a book at all, the publication reported. Between 2007 and 2017, the proportion of students who read at least five pages of coherent text on paper or screen during a school day has plummeted from 44 to 8 percent in Grade 6, and from 31 to 6 percent in Grade 9. Additionally, the proportion of students who don't read a single page of fiction during a normal school day increased drastically – from 44 to 81 percent in Grade 6 and from 62 to 87 percent in Grade 9.
According to trade professionals, reading is de-prioritised due to the requirements for teachers to document knowledge goals and meet grading criteria.

"We risk a new kind of illiteracy", award-winning teacher Fredrik Sandström told national broadcaster SVT.

According to Sandström, this is also a side effect of digitalisation that often occurs at the expense of school libraries and books as teaching materials.
"When fewer and fewer students are able to read longer texts, it is crazy not to provide them with books", Sandström said.
At the same time, an earlier Pisa report identified that the gap between immigrant and native students' performance was larger in Sweden than in many other countries, despite highlighting a high motivation among immigrant students. A 2018 Pisa report maintained that students in Swedish schools who were born abroad scored around 60 percent lower.
A nearly decade-old pre-migrant crisis report by Swedish Radio identified a growing number of illiterate individuals among new arrivals. "The number of students in Swedish for immigrants, who have little or no schooling at all from their home country has doubled in five years", the report said.
Since then, Sweden, a nation of 10 million, has received tens of thousands of immigrants, including a record 163,000 in 2015.
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