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Read around Europe

Children's books from Eastern European countries such as Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania may soon be part of the European Picture Book Collection.

The children's literature experts who attended the collection's second symposium, held in Austria in May, have decided to look for funding to add books from Eastern Europe to the existing collection of 19 titles set up two years ago.

The aim of the collection, funded by the European Commission, is to help primary children understand other European countries through universal childhood themes.

The books - among them Mairi Hedderwick's Katie Morag and the New Pier, Michael Foreman's War and Peas and Allan and Janet Ahlberg's Starting School, representing Scotland, Northern Ireland and England - are intended to be read in their original language. They are accompanied by original-language cassettes and teachers' notes with translations.

The collection was initiated by Penni Cotton, senior lecturer in primary education at Kingston University.

It is hoped that this project will enable children in both the UK and wider Europe to understand more about each other through the visual narratives within the books. Dr Cotton carried out UK trials of the collection last year. The books have now also been trialled in Finland, and next term there will be more trials in other EU primary schools, initially in France, Austria, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.

Other possibilities discussed at the Austria symposium include the development of in-service training and a CD-Rom and video to help teachers use the book collection. It was also agreed to keep the collection intact and stable for the next five years and to explore the possibility of a European prize for future picture books.

The papers from the symposium, which were given by delegates from both EU and non-EU countries, will be available from Kingston University in the autumn.

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