CULTURE

Blue Satchel brings books to libraries for the young

Twenty-nine libraries all over Greece, 7,500 children’s books and a huge and unique research library with 39,500 editions of reading texts and children’s books are part of the small yet important property of the Book Center for Children and Teenagers. Twenty-two years ago, Elga Kavvadia conceived the idea of founding the first children’s library in Elefsina, a library where kids would learn to love reading and to seek knowledge. The center’s libraries are not restricted to merely lending books: With the help of 43 people that the center employs throughout Greece, various educational programs enable children aged 4 to 18 to have direct access to books, authors, painters and the world in general. I visited the center, which is housed on Ermou Street in Athens. Elga Kavvadia and her colleagues showed me some of the numerous educational programs they have conceived, which, with the help of the center’s mobile library, the so-called «Blue Satchel,» take the center’s 29 libraries and rare books around Greece. Their most recent center, and their pride and joy, is in the Pomak villages. Every Friday they visit the Children’s Hospital and lend out books, while a library is also functioning at the youth prison in Avlona. Another five libraries are ready for youth prisons around Greece, but they need the help of the Ministry of Justice to start working. The center is facing financial difficulties: The little funding it does receive from the Ministry of Education and the help of its sponsors (the Bodossaki Foundation, the Baron Michail Tositsas Foundation, the Melas Kindergarten Chamber and Papastratos) are not enough. Already it has cut back its small educational editions (an impressive combination of visual arts and literature) and it is trying to continue the program with imagination and the poor means at its disposal. One of the center’s helpers is Alexis Kyritsopoulos, who designs the posters for the programs. The center’s libraries are open daily from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., except Sundays and Mondays. «We are concerned with reading, which doesn’t stop after school hours; it’s an ongoing procedure that can be achieved in many ways,» said Kavvadia. This lonely effort has continued for 22 years. Apart from financial relief, which is necessary for the center, collaboration with other institutions would also be very useful. Since the National Book Center is also working to promote reading, perhaps a collaboration between the two could bear fruit.