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2008.02.29

* UNICEF and IKEA reintroduce Albanian children to books
* 03 min 02 secs
* 24 Jan 2008

Albania… where a generation of school children has been growing up without books or encouragement to read.

“We just have very old shelves, older students made them. We don’t have new books. Only books from before 1990 so the situation is very bad – you’ll see yourself.”

This pitiful sight, repeated across the country, has been worsening since 1990.

Public libraries were re-purposed and school budgets slashed in the transition from communism.

While at home, most families are too poor to buy their own books so children have had little, often nothing, to read.

But the situation is changing… UNICEF and partners have committed to opening a library in 850 schools here and to re-igniting the once strong culture of reading.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Carrie Auer, UNICEF Albania Country Representative: : “Our overall aim is really to help improve the quality of teaching and learning and reading and help children achieve certain levels of reading. We know reading is very important for learning: first you learn to read and then you read to learn.”

IKEA, UNICEF’s largest corporate donor is a key partner in the Albania Reads project. Last year, the global furniture retailer gave 10.5 million dollars to UNICEF, with schemes like this annual soft-toy campaign raising money to help improve children’s lives.

For just 1 million dollars, Albania Reads will reach more than 200 thousand children.

Marginalised youth are being employed to build new bookshelves and to help with distribution. Books have been donated from publishing houses. Teacher training and new governmental policies are promoting the benefits of reading.

SOUNDBITE (ALBANIAN) Jxhen Hasani, 14, Student : “Since we got the library I’ve read about 30 or 40 books. I’ve read: Harry Potter, books about Greek mythology, history and others. It really helps me in at school. It’s really improved my reading skills and made me want to read more.”

This hunger for books shows a marked change from two years ago when more than half of Albanian children aged-over-15 were unable to complete more than the simplest of reading tasks.

By nurturing this culture of reading, UNICEF hopes the societal benefits of raising a literate youth will help to improve life for all children in Albania.



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