‘Albania Reads’ – IKEA donation brings new books to schoolchildren in need
By Rachel Bonham Carter
NEW YORK, 25 February 2008 – UNICEF and IKEA are re-igniting enthusiasm for reading amongst a generation of children in Albania who have been deprived of books.
For almost two decades, libraries have been repurposed and school budgets slashed while the government has focussed on transitioning to democracy. Books have become a scarce and expensive commodity, out of reach for many poor families. The resulting dearth of literature has left well over half of Albanian 15-year-olds unable to complete more than the simplest reading tasks.
“At home I only have three books,” explains Ermedina Hoxha, 13. “The last books the school library received was six years ago but they are inappropriate. We also have books from the old Communist era. If you go to Peshkopi Library they have few books for children – sometimes only one copy.”
‘Learn to read, read to learn’
Learn to read, read to learn’
“What’s best is that the Albania Reads project works with the Ministry of Education so that the books we receive are the same books that children need in literature classes,” says Musa Nikolai, the teacher in charge of the new library at the school in Katundi i Ri.
Forty minutes from Ermedina’s hometown, Katundi i Ri is a small farming community and typical of the target communities at the heart of Albania Reads. Many children have no books at home, and it is not uncommon for girls to drop out of school at the age of 13.
“We know reading is very important for learning,” says UNICEF Representative in Albania Carrie Auer. “First you learn to read and then you read to learn. So if we want continuous achievement in school, reading is important.”
Re-establishing the culture of literacy
At the same time, teachers are being trained in new techniques to encourage reading, and an Albania Reads awareness campaign is planned to help re-establish the country’s culture of literacy. Also in the works are a children’s magazine and a national literary award with winners to be decided by young people.
IKEA’s contribution to Albania Reads was part of a $10.5 million donation to UNICEF in 2007. Since 2001, IKEA has given UNICEF a total of $46.2 million to help improve the lives of children around the world.
UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on the return of books to children in Albania.