Summary: Onnimanni 3/2023

Onnimannin numeron 3/2023 kansikuvaThe fall issue of Onnimanni focuses on easy-to-read children’s books for beginning readers.

Children today acquire the ability to read in their own pace. Fluent reading skills are practiced throughout primary school and therefore the range of books on offer should be geared towards readers of various ages and reading abilities.

Children’s books directed at early readers rarely receive literary prizes. Although these books demand a special kind of expertise from their makers, they tend to be forgotten by keynote speakers and reviewers.

Editor in chief Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen invited four experts to discuss the best ways to make easy-to-read children’s books and to inspire early readers. A classroom teacher, a Finnish language lecturer, a speech therapist specialized in children’s speech development, and a preschool and primary education reading coordinator were asked to acquaint themselves with new easy-to-read books on the market. The books on offer raised many questions among the experts, e.g., about typography, illustration, clarity of language and themes addressed. Books written in simplified language and easy-to-read children’s books meant for beginning readers resemble each other more than ever before. In the future, the experts wish that publishers would take better into account children with different abilities and backgrounds. Although Finnish children’s reading skills are still good when compared internationally, their vocabulary and overall language skills keep getting poorer. On the one hand, children who speak Finnish as their first language and children who are completely new to the language find different words challenging. On the other, long sentences and non-finite clauses are challenging for all children.

The most important textbook for children beginning school is the ABC-book. Publishers and working groups keep producing new ABC-books. Children’s writers and illustrators are often invited into such working groups to create the story world of the ABC-book. Children’s author Reetta Niemelä and illustrator Nora Surojegin share their own experiences of making ABC-books. In addition, three authors illuminate which factors are especially worth considering when making an easy-to-read book for beginning readers.

Mikko Saari has written an article about Finnish books for children and young adults, which make use of computer gaming. The oldest books that Saari refers to are from the late 1980s. In more recent books computer gaming is a natural part of the story world. Examples include books by Timo Parvela, Bjørn Sortland, and Pasi Pitkänen’s Kepler62-series.

Author Johanna Hulkko’s essay celebrates the 50-year-anniversary of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s novel The Brothers Lionheart. Hulkko argues that children’s books “without smell or taste” are always written at the expense of children. Over the years, Lindgren’s book has generated different discussions and controversies. Hulkko stresses how important it is that grownups reading The Brothers Lionheart for children accept that rainbow endings and a range of colours – including messengers of death, ravens, and silky-feathered crows – fit into children’s lives.

Translation Maria Lassén-Seger