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The BBC's Bill Hamilton
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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 12:20 GMT
Pupils donate books for children's library
children reading Children relish the chance to learn English

Thousands of British school children have helped create the first children's library in Europe's poorest country, Albania.

More than 50,000 books donated by pupils across Britain have been sent to stock the library in the capital Tirana.

The library, in the city's cultural centre, has been dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her brother Earl Spencer performed its official opening ceremony.

Albanian boy Albanian children are enthusiastic about the library
The books were collected from schools by the charity Task Force Albania, which has collected another 50,000 ready to be sent.

As well as allowing children access to a huge range of books, the library offers them English lessons, and an introduction to computer studies.

Nearly all the books on the shelves are in English, but this is seen as a source of encouragement to the Albanian youngsters.

One boy, aged 12, said: "I think this library is a very good library, because it means that Albanian children are going to study and learn English, and this is the entry of them to the world."

John Van Weenen, of Task Force Albania, said: "We appealed to all eight million school children in Great Britain, through 25,000 schools, and they came up with books. Yes, they certainly do like helping."

earl spencer Earl Spencer reading aloud for one of the pupils
The President of Albania, Rexhep Meidani, said: "It's people to people, children to children, and this is, I believe, our future, our common future."

There are now plans to expand the library project to 25 other centres across the country.

Earl Spencer said: "Certainly when I get back to England, I'll be asking the Memorial Fund to consider whether this might be something that they would support.

"It is the sort of work that my sister would have supported, I'm sure, and the benefit's so easy to see. For 5,000 you can ship a lorry load of this books, start a new library, and really transform a whole community's lives."

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