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What does it mean to be a reader in Friesland?.

Just like writing, reading is also becoming a shared activity. That doesn’t mean curling up alone with a book has becomes a thing of the past; for many readers, this remains the first step in ‘consuming’ literature. It’s easy to buy or borrow books in Leeuwarden, and the dedicated bookworm can have a whale of a time in the Tresoar archives.

However, the act of reading is not the last or only step. There are lots of book clubs in Friesland in which groups of readers can discuss their experiences. There are plenty of other opportunities to experience literature in the company of others: at a festival, via Omrop Fryslân (for example, Iepen Up live always has some poetry, and there are book reviews on the radio), book signings at bookstore Van der Velde, or author readings by the Heerenveen Literary Activities Foundation. This is, of course, just a selection of the literary events and meetings organised in Friesland.

Reading starts, of course, when we learn to read. Reading and literacy do not happen by themselves. Although using language plays a major role in everyday life for almost all of Friesland’s inhabitants, low levels of literacy remain a problem in part of the province. This does not only concern the Dutch language. Some Frisians can read and write Dutch very well, but have limited literacy skills in Frisian. Fortunately, there are lots of initiatives at the moment to promote literacy, multilingualism and reading. Multilingualism and translanguaging help raise language awareness. There are also social and emotional benefits. This is because they contribute to the development of a personal identity, mutual respect and involvement with each other, openness to other languages and cultures, and inclusiveness. Examples of initiatives deeply engaged with these aspects are KEK, IMO and Centrum Meertaligheid.