The literary Mun tarina initiative in a nutshell
Young people in Finland have been losing interest in reading literature all through the beginning of the 21st century, as demonstrated by PISA test results, media reports, and education professionals. Meanwhile, however, a form of poetry known as spoken word has spread like wildfire among young adults, instigating a resurgence of skill sets in writing, reading, performance, and attention spans.
The Finnish Reading Center constantly seeks to find new ways to strengthen and support the literary development of young people.
Spoken word poetry includes elements of writing, reading, and close listening all in one genre, and the potential of this discipline shows great promise as a tool for improving literacy and self-expression. The Mun tarina (“My story”) initiative incorporated methods of spoken word in the form of workshops held in several Finnish upper secondary school literature classes. The project was made possible in December, 2017 by a three-year grant from the Kone Foundation.
The initiative comprised 50 workshops held in upper secondary schools, writing groups, and among participants in the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation’s youth-centered Vamos service. Riina Kontkanen, MA, observed the live workshops; Johanna Raimi, MA, studied the teaching methods in multilingual groups; and Merja Kauppinen, PhD., participated in an expert consulting capacity. Spoken word poets Aura Nurmi and Juho Kuusi developed the pedagogical methodology and ran the workshops themselves.
The three-year program directly reached some 2,000 young people.
In addition to the workshops, upper secondary students were given the opportunity to practice poetry in their spare time. Nurmi and Kuusi organized numerous open mic events for young people across Finland, some of which have remained as recurring clubs in their region. The two poets also spoke to professional teachers and librarians about the possibilities of spoken word poetry in specially organized training events. In total, the Mun tarina project reached more than 4,000 people.
The project runners investigated the real-world effects of the workshops during and after the teaching situations themselves, and 200 teenage participants responded to a survey on the results of the workshops. Among these results were a newfound interest in writing and performing spoken word (31 percent) and participating in open mic events (40 percent), as well as hopes for an increase in creative writing elements in upper secondary education (47 percent). The survey was conducted by researcher Riina Kontkanen, MA.