One in five Europeans read so poorly they cannot survive in modern society, and now a group of experts suggests more preschools and reading programs for the entire family in order to turn the trend around.

Sweden lies somewhat below the average number of weak readers, but more than 17 percent of 15-year-olds are at a level where all they can handle are the simplest of texts. The few studies that have been done on adult Europeans’ abilities to read show they are at the same level as the 15-year-olds. This means approximately 75 million people have not reached the reading level needed to develop and function in society, at home, at school and at work. Better ability to read has been prioritized by the European Union, according to which it is crucial to read in order to have a good life. More and more jobs demand great reading skills.


“We live in a paradox: While reading and writing is more important than ever in our digitalized world, the ability to read is falling behind. Better reading skills lead to benefits for both individuals as well as for society, and in the long run that means billions of euros,” said Androulla Vassiliou, the commissioner responsible for education, when the report was released. For smaller kids, a good preschool is the best thing. More teachers licensed in special education have to be hired in schools if the goal of the European Union—to lower the number of poor readers among the 15-year-olds to 15 percent within eight years—is to be reached. Young people need more varied reading in schools with both animated series and e-books, so that boys in particular want to read. The number of boys with poor reading schools is double that of the number of girls, because boys in general don’t read for entertainment purposes as much as girls. The expert group also believes that the collaboration between schools and companies ought to increase so that reading skills have more relevance to real life situations. When it comes to adult readers, the expert group wants to start literacy programs involving the entire family.
In early October, education ministers from the European Union will gather to discuss how to proceed, with this report as their basis.