World reading habits

By / in Education, India, Learning / Posted August 21, 2018

Everyone knows that reading enriches our lives in many ways. It brings countless benefits, some of which include mental stimulation, increased knowledge, improved memory, stronger critical thinking skills, entertainment, and more. Reading is also known as one of the keys to success. People that consistently read tend to be high academic and professional achievers. This usually translates into personal success for individuals, but how about countries? How about considering the reading habits of society or countries as a whole? When considering world reading habits, you could imagine how well-read nations might benefit from having a population that consistently reads. In this post, we take a look at world reading habits.

Which countries read the most?

The world’s top three countries that spend the most time reading per week are India (10:42 hours), Thailand (9:24 hours), and China (8:00 hours). That is far greater than the bottom group of nations. On the other end of the spectrum – Taiwan, Japan, and Korea occupy the bottom of the reading list at 5:00, 4:06, and 3:06 hours, respectively. The bottom group of countries that read the least out of this group includes three first world countries, which may be surprising.

What might also surprise some (or maybe not), are other first-world countries’ reading habits. For example, the US, Germany, and Canada rank below average. These highly developed nations are in the bottom third of global weekly reading hours. People in America and Germany manage to read 5 hours and 42 minutes, while Canadians average 5 hours and 48 minutes per week.

Some countries read more than others, but that doesn’t mean they are overall more literate.

What countries are the most literate?

While the countries in the top percentile spend the most hours reading per week, they are not considered the most “literate” countries in the world. According to the World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN), a study conducted by the president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, John Miller, Finland tops the list as the most literate country in the world.

In this case, literacy means “literate behavior characteristics”. Instead of measuring a country’s ability to read, WMLN ranks countries based on their “literate behaviors and their supporting resources”. That includes everything from the number of libraries and newspapers, to years of schooling and computer availability in each country.

Nordic countries dominated the top of the list. Finland ranked first and Norway in second. The top five rounded out with Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden. Switzerland came in sixth, with the US in seventh. Germany was eighth and Canda in eleventh. The report noted that if it had only ranked countries based on their reading assessment results, the final outcome would have been very different. If reading assessment results were the only factor, Singapore would be first, followed by South Korea, Japan, and China. Finland would then be the only non-Pacific Rim country to be in the top five. 


The World’s Most Literate Nation ranking suggests that world literacy and literate behaviors are essential to the success of individuals, and ultimately, the nations they live in. Having a well-read populace is a significant benefit. However, countries need more than that. They must also increase their literacy by providing the resources that better educate their citizens and provide equal learning opportunities. This would lead to overall more literate nations comprised of citizens with the capacity to progress our knowledge-based economies.

“The most important thing is that schooling is equal. Reading and educating have been appreciated also by working class and that the profession of teaching and education is also appreciated.” said Finnish author Aki Ollikainen. He went on to say: “I’m very proud of the Finnish school system and also our libraries. They have very versatile collections available to all. Everybody has an equal opportunity to learn and to read. In Finland, we are used to keeping this obvious, but globally it is luxurious.”

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