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Flights of fantasy over Switzerland

A fantasy world awaits Swiss youngsters on Friday evening

(Keystone)

Thousands of Swiss youngsters are to enter the fantasy world of fiction on Friday evening at organised book-reading sessions in schools and libraries throughout the country.

The idea of introducing children to adventure stories out of school hours was that of a teacher in Canton Valais, Kurt Schnidrig, who 10 years ago began the evening reading sessions at his school.

They were so successful that other communities in Valais followed his example, and now the idea has been taken up by schools and libraries all over Switzerland.

On Friday, stories such as "1001 Nights" and "Aladdin and his Magic Lamp" - not forgetting the adventures of Harry Potter - will be narrated by both adults and children in the country's four language regions.

"The emphasis is on tales from exotic parts of the world such as the orient and the African desert," says Ursula Laubsche of the Swiss Youth Literature Association, which is coordinating the reading sessions.

"We felt that children were not being given enough access to fictional fantasy because of the predominance of television, cinema and computer entertainment," she added.

"It is up to each community to organise the session as it wants. Some will take place in the early evening, while others will last all night and the youngsters will take sleeping bags and be given refreshments."

Laubsche said there was no age limit, and many adults were also expected to attend the sessions as listeners to fairy stories they might have missed as children - or simply wanted to hear again.

by Richard Dawson

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