Bringing Read Hour to the UK

Bringing Read Hour to the UK

For many reasons, in the West, one of the most pressing problems of the 21st century is that literacy among young people is decreasing. Reading increases empathy, widens the imagination and understanding of different people, cultures and societies – all important skills for building a better future. We need reading to be able to solve the problems of our generation and of the generations to come.

Finland is internationally known as the promised land of education. However, we are in a situation where 12.5 % of young people aged 12–15 are in danger of getting marginalised because of their lacking reading and writing skills. Then there is this worrying fact from the newest PISA survey from 2018: 60% of the boys in Finland read only if forced.

As one solution for this pressing problem, the Finnish Children and Youth Foundation organises a campaign called Read Hour, now in its third year, that challenges everyone to read for an hour on UN’s International Literacy Day, 8th September.

The idea is very simple – get as many people as possible to stop and read for an hour. The aim is to make reading a national phenomenon. Read Hour was established in 2019, and it has been a huge success in Finland. This September, Read Hour is spreading into other countries as well – the United Kingdom among them.

Read Hour was inspired by another campaign called Little x Little. In 2018, Little x Little gathered the six largest advertising groups all around the world to collaborate on projects that benefit young people, around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The same year, the Children and Youth Foundation joined with its long-time partners, one of the largest media companies in Finland Alma Media, and an international marketing agency Dentsu Aegis Network, to create a campaign to advance the SDGs in Finland. We invited other media and marketing companies to join us in workshops that eventually led to an idea of a joint reading hour throughout Finland.

The first Read Hour took place on 8th September 2019 at 7pm.

Since its beginning, the campaign’s patron has been the president of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö.

All in all, the campaign has been a huge success story in Finland. It has brought together dozens of organizations from all sectors to support a common goal. All the biggest media companies in Finland have been happy to provide pro bono media space for the campaign, and dozens of well-known influencers have promoted the campaign in their channels. Libraries, schools, daycare centres and workplaces have organized their own events around reading.

Visibility for #ReadHour in social media can be counted in millions of views, which is a great result in a country of Finland's size, with a population of 5.5 million.

Most importantly, during every campaign in September, we have been able to spark a nationwide conversation about the importance of reading.

We believe that a key factor in Read Hour’s success is the philosophy behind the campaign: we want to celebrate reading. Especially when it comes to children and young people, preaching about the benefits of reading is not going to work. Instead, we need to show how fun and entertaining reading is and let young people see that the whole society around them is reading and appreciating it.

The positive undertone has helped us gather a great network around the initiative, now also outside of Finland. Over the years, we have never had to struggle to get partners involved. Without the knowledge, resources, and goodwill of our partners, Read Hour would not exist.

Together with one of the campaign's main partners, Moomin Characters, we are now bringing Read Hour to the UK. Sweden, Estonia and Iceland will also participate in the campaign.

In the UK, organizations that have pledged to support Read Hour so far include Waterstones, Macmillan Children’s Books, Sort Of Books, Oxfam, World Book Day, BookTrust, Love Reading, and many more.

There will be special Read Hour events taking place at Waterstones stores in London and Glasgow on 8th September at 4 pm. The Glasgow event at the Sauchiehall Street store will see Moomin storyteller Liz Fost entertain and delight audiences with interactive storytelling and crafts. In London’s Kingston store attendees will have the opportunity to meet and have a photo with Moomintroll and hear tales of Moominvalley from children’s author Philip Ardagh, the author of The World of Moominvalley.

Jennifer Saunders, Cressida Cowell, Laura Dockrill, and Philip Ardagh are among the celebrities and authors who will be supporting Read Hour on social media. Anyone taking part is encouraged to share a photo of themselves or the book they are reading on social media using the hashtag #ReadHourUK.

The official Read Hour will be held at 2pm-3pm, but anyone unable to take part then is encouraged to hold their own Read Hour at any time that suits them on 8th September. Reading alone and reading together with a family member, friend, classmates or colleagues are equally encouraged.

Read Hour campaign slogan is very simple: Read more.

Will you?