“Ensuring good reading skills encompasses everything from democracy to imagination; without good reading skills, it’s difficult to actively participate in society. Moreover, without reading literary texts—whether short or long—it becomes harder to develop an imagination and immerse oneself in the lives and thoughts of others.”

– Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, August 2023

High reading competence increases the chances of a good life, both at the individual and societal levels. The goal for the stakeholders behind “Leseløft Lillehammer” (Reading Boost Lillehammer) is to contribute to enthusiasm for reading and ensure that as many people as possible become proficient readers.

Leseløft Lillehammer is a collaboration between the Lillehammer schools, Skolekontoret, Lillehammer Library, the Norwegian Festival of Literature, World Expression Forum, Innlandet County Library, Den kulturelle skolesekken (The Cultural School Bag), and others, and is anchored in Lillehammer municipality’s recently adopted cultural plan for 2024-35, which emphasizes the goal of an enlightened community.

The big picture: decline in reading skills

Leseløft Lillehammer recognizes that the work of increasing children’s and young people’s reading enthusiasm and competence is an ongoing effort. It’s also an uphill battle

  • A study conducted by researchers at Lesesenteret (the national reading center) in 2023 shows that parents read less to their children; one in three parents reads no or very few books to their children.
  • The 2024 reading survey shows the same trend: fewer parents read aloud to their children, while those who do read to them more often than before. In other words, the difference between children is increasing.
  • The 2023 PIRLS survey reveals that Norwegian 10-year-olds read significantly worse than the same age group in 2016. Norwegian students also have the lowest love of reading among all 65 countries in the survey.
  • The 2023 PISA survey indicates that Norwegian 15-year-olds read worse than they did five years ago.

The decline in reading skills nationally and internationally means that we not only need to improve, but also reverse the downward trend.

These challenges represent a concerning development that must be addressed through reading initiatives.

Reading Boost as a prerequisite for democracy

Strengthening efforts to promote reading is an absolute prerequisite for safeguarding democracy. The Ljubljana Reading Manifesto: Why higher-level reading is important emphasizes that reading must be defined broadly and include skills such as reading, interpretation, evaluation, and understanding source criticism. The goal is not only to read but also to be able to find information, knowledge, ideas, and valuable reflections.


In March 2024, five of the largest international literary industry organizations came together to issue a statement called the “International Statement on the Freedom of Expression, and the Freedoms to Publish and Read.” Here, reading freedom is highlighted as one of several important challenges in the years to come. Reading freedom means having access to the widest possible range of books and ideas.


Lillehammer schools showing good results

Schools in Lillehammer can demonstrate positive development in students’ reading skills on the national tests, including at the 5th grade level. These tests provide important information about the quality of education, and there is a strong emphasis on ensuring that as many students as possible complete them. Lillehammer has a high completion rate compared to the national average, and very few students are exempt from taking the tests. While this exemption policy affects the results, it provides a more realistic picture of the Lillehammer school’s performance.

We want to highlight several factors that we believe have contributed to the good results:

  • Targeted work from preschool and schools. Solid and knowledge-based educational practices, as well as motivated and skilled staff in preschools and schools in Lillehammer.
  • Lillehammer Library making books accessible and ensuring they reach the right young readers.
  • The Norwegian Festival og Literature and Pegasus offering free and comprehensive literature programs to schools and preschools year-round.
  • World Expression Forum’s focus on freedom of expression projects for youth.
  • Additional dissemination services from county libraries, school libraries, Den kulturelle skolesekken (The Cultural School Bag), SFO (after-school care), and others.

Leseløft Lillehammer draws inspiration from best practices nationally and internationally and aims to further develop its offerings.

To document the effects and understand the relationship between measures and results, we will collaborate with relevant research environments, both nationally and internationally.

Long-term, coordinated, and research-based

Based on studies conducted by national and international research environments, we know a lot about what creates good readers. Leseløft Lillehammer employs different approaches at various stages in children and young people’s developmental paths. The measures are coordinated to work together and strengthen each other. The most important work is done in schools during daily reading instruction, which is reinforced and supplemented with additional support from relevant actors.

Leseløft Lillehammer focuses on three specific areas and approaches:

  • Transition from preschool to school: play-based approach

There is effective and systematic work on the connection and continuity between preschool and school in Lillehammer, where language and a play-based approach within an inclusive community are emphasized.

A central initiative to foster a love for reading is “Boklek” (literally: Book Play), which 90% of all primary school-starters in Innlandet participate in during spring before starting first grade. This project is based on play and is well-coordinated with the school’s daily activities. With over 10 years of experience, we know that Boklek works and provides the energy needed to continue the long-lasting and challenging task of learning to read.

All first-grade students visit Lillehammer Library, where they receive a professionally tailored program and receive books and reading tips customized for each student.

  • Middle School: varied reading strategies and critical reflection

The Lillehammer schools’ approach is based on the assumption that middle school students have developed a certain level of reading competence and are ready to be challenged with critical reflection. It is also crucial that students in this phase maintain their enthusiasm for reading. Effective reading and writing instruction require structured and systematic training. All teachers have a responsibility to support students in developing strong reading and writing skills and to ensure that they experience joy in reading and writing. For Lillehammer schools, working on language, reading, and writing skills is part of the overarching goal to enhance learning outcomes for each individual student. Functional literacy and writing skills are also essential for lifelong learning and active participation in society in a critical and reflective manner. The further reading and writing instruction in middle school builds upon several learning activities from the initial stages, including learning strategies, reading aloud, and library use.

All fourth-grade students participate in a “Reserleser” visit to Lillehammer Library. This visit includes book discussions and author interactions. Reading initiatives such as Reading Bingo, Lillehammer Reads Junior and Summer Read motivate reading for funand function well due to effective local collaboration between schools, libraries, festivals, and families.

A central reading initiative is “Barnebokbad” (Storytime for Kids) which involves reading aloud in the classroom before students engage in discussions. The project culminates in a “Barnebokbad,” where student representatives interview the author while the rest of the students serve as the audience.

  • Young adults: equal opportunities and freedom of expression

In secondary school, students can read and are encouraged to read, becoming engaged citizens through critical thinking and freedom of expression. The goal is for the next generation to be informed and participatory citizens. Through various learning laboratories, we develop tools and platforms to facilitate youth participation.

Key reading initiatives include “Equal Opportunities,” “WEXFO Youth Voices,” and “Uprisen.”

Volume and Quality

While Norwegian students, on average, participate in 3-4 literary events during their school years, students in Lillehammer schools attend 20 such events. The scope and quality of these initiatives have a positive impact on reading enthusiasm and improved reading skills.

When the school’s reading instruction is integrated with contributions from other stakeholders involved in the reading initiative, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

The ambition is for the work to continue and get stronger. Prioritized efforts going forward:

School Libraries as a vital arena

The school and public libraries collaborate to enhance school libraries, making them central spaces for learning and fostering reading enthusiasm throughout the entire school journey. We aim to work toward local improvements in school libraries.

Getting families on board

Children who grow up in a family that reads have better conditions to become active readers themselves. The 2024 Reading Survey indicates that fewer parents are reading aloud to their children. Leseløft Lillehammer aims to strengthen parental support related to reading—from the child’s early years through their upbringing—through closer collaboration with health centers, kindergartens, and parent committees, among other things.

Leseløft Lillehammer’s Goals:

  • Enhance local collaboration.
  • Improve the quality of reading instruction and reading outcomes in schools.
  • Collaborate with relevant research environments.
  • Serve as a model for promoting reading enthusiasm nationally and internationally.