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Fact of the Week #4

Written by Dave Cookson, 10th June 2011

Amongst the London Evening Standard's articles concerning literacy in the capital last week was a particularly interesting piece of trivia buried beneath the lack of book ownership from some children, the high numbers of people not reaching their expected reading age and graduates with levels of literacy not deemed satisfactory by their employers.

Without further ado, here is the fact of the week:

In Finland, literacy levels have been extraordinarily high ever since the 17th century, when couples were required to pass a reading test before marrying.

The idea of being motivated by love (or tax breaks) to learn to read really is quite fascinating. Obviously, we do not condone such a policy which by modern standards would be deemed a breach of human rights but it does make you wonder.

Did illiterate couples accept that marriage would be an impossibility, at least in their home country? If one was literate, would they teach the other to read? Did they read to their partners? Did anybody cheat? (On the test, you cynics!) Would grooms lie about their literacy so they could revise for their tests as an excuse to avoid wedding preparations? There's probably a really good film to be made on this subject. There'd be a cheesy Hollywood moment where the learner struggles with dictionaries, textbooks etc. and then when they read a love poem they instantly get the reading bug. Richard Gere would probably be in it.

If we have any Fins reading could they fill us in on what they know about this?

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