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Reading Grandmas and Grandpas

Want to engage the community & improve reading literacy?

Reading Grandmas and Grandpas visit schools to help students struggling with reading. During the reading session, the student gets positive reinforcement and the undivided attention of a trained Reading Grandma or Grandpa.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Finland 100

Web presence






March 2017
I learnt kind of a lot from grandma. I learnt what's a smell and what's a scent – a lot of new words.

About the innovation

What is Reading Grandmas and Grandpas?

Reading is one of the most fundamental life skills. Reading proficiency encompasses a range of different aspects, with comprehension and technical reading skills at its core.  

Many countries have witnessed a decline in children's comprehensive reading skills. This should be addressed in and outside of school. Poor reading skills negatively impact a child's school success and education choices, can limit career options or even cause exclusion from working life. 

Globalization and international mobilization have increased the number of students from immigrant backgrounds. For these students, learning the language can play a crucial role in their schoolwork, sense of inclusion in the school and integration into society. 

One solution to the issue of declining reading skills is to recruit and train Reading Grandmas and Grandpas, who support students struggling with reading. This model presents a framework to support reading skills from an early age with senior support.

Trained Reading Grandmas and Grandpas are happy to help teachers and improve students' reading skills, visiting schools for half a lesson to read with the children. During these sessions children and seniors read and discuss a variety of books, including both fiction and nonfiction. 

The sessions are designed mainly for those struggling the most and in need of additional support. Reading Grandmas and Grandpas are highly trained in researched reading techniques relating to reading fluency and learning new vocabulary. During these sessions, the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas give their undivided attention to the child, providing encouragement and perhaps even sparking a life long interest in reading. 

This innovation has been adopted by over 60 schools in Finland.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Reading Grandmas and Grandpas brings seniors to schools in a pedagogically meaningful way.


Trained volunteers boost the students' confidence in learning and increase their motivation.


The innovation can be implemented anywhere, as the school trains volunteers with materials provided.


The meaning of Reading Grandmas and Grandpas program for its volunteers
The Reading Grandmas and Grandpas program has been developed in two projects at the Niilo Mäki Institute: Supporting Reading Fluency (years 2012-2014) and Reading and Linguistic Skills (years 2015-2017). Both projects included research and several theses were carried out. According to previous studies, volunteering has many positive impacts on life. Being involved in volunteering increases seniors’ feelings of self-efficacy and purposefulness. As volunteering is literally voluntary based, everyone may choose what kind of activity they are willing to participate in, building on one’s own interests. In other words, volunteering allows one to feel fulfilled in a pleasing way.There have been positive research findings made on the meaning of the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas program for its volunteers. For instance, the friendships made in the project and the time spent with the children are perceived to increase the volunteers’ well-being. Peer group meetings give an excellent chance for networking, sharing experiences, and spending time together with the other volunteers. Reading Grandmas and Grandpas form a group, which is rewarding to belong to. However, working with children is one of the biggest reasons for one to take part in the program. Many volunteers tell that the children are the reason the program is so pleasing and interesting in the first place. Working as a Reading Grandma or Grandpa allows different generations to interact and the volunteers to work as supportive and present adults for the children taking part in the program.Besides experiencing a community and feeling joy for being with children, volunteering is stated to be a pleasant activity and to bring a nice rhythm to one’s everyday life. According to the volunteers, being part of the program has increased their well-being by higher engagement and activity as well as feeling they are doing something with a purpose. The work as a Reading Grandma or Grandpa is described as a valuable and beneficial task, which is rewarding and relatively easy for the volunteer, and benefits others significantly. The volunteers are also more satisfied about themselves when they feel they are able to help. The program is also perceived as beneficial for the Finnish society. Besides, the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas get to know how schooling is today and children’s everyday life when taking part in the program.REFERENCES:Aho, Miia, Saranpää, Lotta & Väljä, Katja 2014: ”Niin pieni kädenojennus ja tuo kuitenki iloa ittelle”. Vapaaehtoistoiminnan merkitys ikäihmisten hyvinvoinnille. Bachelor’s thesis. University of Jyväskylä: Department of Psychology.Lehtonen, Heidi 2014: Vertaisryhmätapaamisten merkitys ikäihmisten vapaaehtoistoiminnassa. Bacherlor’s thesis. University of Jyväskylä: Department of Psychology.Oraluoma, E., Kinnunen, I., Salmi, P., Pöyliö, H. & Aro, M. 2014: Lukumummi ja -vaari -toiminta lukemisen tukena koulussa. In NMI-Bulletin 24 (4), s. 59–71.
Word explanation game filled with grandmas and grandpas!
Guess the Word –word explanation game is a fun game that is themed by leisure time activities and fun everyday life coincidences of Reading Grandmas and Grandpas. Our team wanted firstly to support vocabulary learning, and secondly to encourage children to use Finnish language. In this game, words are explained in turns. The game contains 45 picture cards and 45 word cards. The cards were created based on a questionnaire made for the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas. The words are explained in different ways, and players get points both from explaining the words and making the right guesses. But why did we make a card game? A good game is on the other hand challenging, and a fun way to learn on the other. One may test his or her limits safely while playing. In addition, playing has more studied benefits: - One must use the less active parts of the brain while playing, which enhances the use of the brain.- Games and motivation have a connection and games increase one’s study motivation. - Games may increase focus and bring joy to learning. - Games make independent learning without a teacher possible. - Doing and trying by yourself are effective ways to learn. - Learning games are suitable for teaching other than only routine skills.Many situations connected to playing are also good for practicing linguistic skills. These kinds of situations are diverse interaction situations and the need to express things, emotions and will. Guess the Word –word explaining game sets a good environment to learn. Would you like to have this game? Please contact moi@lukumummit.fi to get the game in a pdf-format.You may also order the game in colors, delivered in its box, from the web store of Niilo Mäki institute from here: http://kauppa.nmi.fi
Reading Grandma Leena encourages everyone to refresh themselves by volunteering
Leena Hänninen, 75, is an active person in terms of voluntary work. During her working years, Hänninen was a founder and leader of a voluntary work center in Jyväskylä. After retirement, she has not had too many moments without activities. “Through volunteer work I have had a soft landing to retirement”, Leena describes. As working as the president of a Finnish pensioner organization, Hänninen knows that especially men could be encouraged more to participate in volunteering when they are about to retire. “We all know, that there are more seniors that are women in the first place, and that men will not attend our knitting clubs”, Leena laughs.“I think there could be more men attending the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas”, Leena suggests. Leena herself started within the project in the spring of 2016. “This program, targeted for immigrant students, is absolutely wonderful. I have grandchildren that are the same age with the students I read with. Unfortunately my grandchildren live further away, so this activity helps with my longing. The students are so open and sweet.” Leena memorizes the childhood period of her own children and as evening activities often took place due to work, the responsibility for reading bed time stories was left for Leena’s husband. “This reading activity is definitely for men also. The story telling of grandpas is something that children especially like.” But how may Leena still be so active, even though she is retired? Leena herself answers with laughter: “I guess it’s in the genes! I think once you start you cannot stop.” Leena refreshes herself by attending senior dances and by knitting in a group. Hänninen encourages all at her age: “Dare to try and you will find your place in the field of volunteering!” 

Implementation steps

Mapping the need
Consider which students could benefit from additional support with their reading and decide how the sessions would fit in with the students' curriculum.
Finding volunteer seniors
Find a motivated senior with enough time to visit your class once a week for half an hour to support the child's reading. Exchange contact information as soon as you find a suitable senior so you can schedule Reading Grandmas and Grandpas training and make other arrangements.
Contacting the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas program

Just contact the coordinator and inform her you want to engage in the Reading Grandmas and Grandpas program. 

The coordinator will send you the necessary material to train a Reading Grandma or Grandpa and to start the program. Please contact moi@lukumummit.fi

Informing the school and homes
Get the support of your principal and inform the parents and guardians of the program. You can find help with this in the materials provided.
Reading the material

Carefully read through the Teacher Manual provided by the program coordinator. In this manual you can find the answer to frequently asked questions and advice to help you avoid common obstacles, as well as to make implementation as easy as possible. 

Training a senior to be a Reading Grandma or Grandpa

Everything you need to train the seniors is provided in the materials, including a detailed outline of the training session. Simply schedule a time and location for the training. 

Choosing the students
Choose a student who can benefit from the support of a Reading Grandma or Grandpa.

The student may need assistance in reading fluency, support in learning how to read or just more encouragement. Students from immigrant backgrounds can also benefit from vocabulary building help from a Reading Grandma or Grandpa.

Depending on how much time the senior is able to volunteer, you could choose one child or several. 

Choosing the material
Take the time to select a book that will really motivate the student, this could be fiction or non fiction depending on their interests.
Meeting with the Reading Grandma or Grandpa
Arrange another meeting with the Reading Grandma or Grandpa to plan how the sessions will be.

Introduce the material chosen for the reading sessions.

If you have not agreed upon the schedule, arrange a regular time and place for the weekly sessions. Also set the duration of the program – will it last the whole school year or a shorter period?

Making introductions
Introduce the Reading Grandma or Grandpa to the school staff and the class. The Teacher Manual provides further details on how to get off to a good start.
The Reading Grandma or Grandpa at the school
Carry out the plan you arranged with the senior.

Meet with the Reading Grandma or Grandpa when they come in for the sessions, even if it's just for a moment. This way you maintain a line of communication and gain information about the student's development and experiences.

Organizing final sessions
Hold final sessions right after the program comes to a close – one with the entire class and the other one-on-one.

The final session with the class should highlight the student's progress and provide an opportunity for the children to say their goodbyes.

The private session between you and the Reading Grandma or Grandpa is an opportunity to discuss the sessions. How did they go? What did you gain from the experience? Were there any challenges? What did you notice about the progress of the student? Arrange potential cooperation in the future.

Further details on the final sessions can be found in the Teacher Manual.

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