When I moved to Finland 3 years and 3 months ago, I barely knew the language. All I could read was the free supermarket adverts that came through the door, matching the products to multi-vowelled words underneath ( ääs and öös, mostly, or so it seemed). Now I’m devouring fiction in Finnish at a frightening pace, and there’s really one place I have to thank: Mikkeli City Library.
Most Finns use the library regularly, averaging 10 visits a year. They do it because it’s worth it: Finland invests in its libraries properly. You can find what you need, when it’s published.
First impressions are very important. The children’s section was colourful and attractive.
I started from the baby books:
Then I moved on to comics, including Tove Jansson’s Moomins:
And books in simplified Finnish, like this one about famous Finnish women:
I read Finnish classics in translation from the adult section. Aleksis Kivi’s Seven Brothers, the first novel written in Finnish, also describes the struggles of a country boy has learning to read. Because you needed to be able to read to get married in church…
Now the world of ‘grown-up’ books stretches before me. It was Nordic Library Week last week, so I could find Scandinavian and Baltic stories in Finnish on prominent display. I don’t need to read Johanna Sinisalo in English or Rosa Liksom with a dictionary any more. I’m moving to a bigger city now but I won’t forget where I came from. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Roald Dahl was right, reading helps you grow.
Thank you Mikkeli Library! I’ll miss you when I move house.