Sweden’s dismal Pisa scores have caused a lot of concern. While experts are outdoing each other in order to figure out what’s gone wrong with Swedish education, researchers such as teacher Barbro Westlund have a great tip that can help: Read to your children.

A few years ago, the saying was ”it doesn’t matter what young kids read as long as they read,” but that has since changed. Westlund was one of the first to point at the importance of what and how and when you read to your children. "It is also important what books you choose to read,” she says. Westlund has extensive experience of reading aloud to children, both as a parent and teacher. She is also one of the experts in the government’s initiative ”Läslyftet,” which will train teachers more effective methods in reading and writing. Regarding which books to read, Westlund refers to an American study, where parents were asked to read from more fact-based books, which led to small children developing a greater vocabulary than if they had just been read fairy tales.
”That doesn’t mean you should stop reading fairy tales,” she says. ”They give something else, an ability to empathize with other people’s life stories. But the study showed that one ought to strive for balance. Especially since Swedish children and young adults have lost a lot when it comes to non-fiction.”
The reading of fiction has not decreased the same way. One of the reasons is that Swedish as a school subject has a tradition of focusing on pure fiction. ”But that non-fiction has been highlighted in this way by the new curriculum is something that parents ought to take to heart, since it brings so many new challenges,” says Westlund and adds that you can change a word or so that’s difficult in a book, but otherwise stick to the text. She suggests you as a parent ask yourself: Why do I want to read this specific book to my child? What discussion will I have with my child? ”There’s a naive belief that reading comprehension will come automatically if only the students learn to read fluently. It has not always been understood that it is the job of the teacher to stimulate their students’ reading comprehension.”

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