Former president Havel and friends encourage Czechs to read to their children

Vaclav and Dagmar Havel, photo: MFDnes, 31.10.07

Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin... Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away, a group of celebrities met to read their favourite fairytales to children who had gathered to listen. On Tuesday night, former President Vaclav Havel was joined by musicians, sportspeople, and filmmakers at an event called 'From My Favourite Children's Book...' The evening included readings from well-known Czech children's classics, as well as songs, and stories written by Mr. Havel himself. This mix of music and fairytale seemed to go down a treat with the hundreds of children present.

Vaclav Havel reads from his story 'Pizduch zalesak' ('Pizduch in the woods') to an audience of enraptured children.

Mr. Havel was only one of the big-names appearing on Tuesday night as part of a project to encourage Czech parents to read to their children for at least twenty minutes a day. Another one of the special guest readers was Barbora Spotakova, the reigning World Javelin Champion.

She thinks it is important for parents to read their child a bedtime story:

"Parents should read to their children, because it leaves you with lots of happy memories when you grow up. For me it was very important, and I think in this hectic day and age it is even more important for children."

In between the readings, folk-singer Jaromir Nohavica worked the crowd with his recital of 'Kozel' or 'Goat' - a fearsome tale of a goat tied to a train track.

Photo: CTK
Zdenek Sverak has written and starred in many films including the Oscar-winning Kolya. I caught up with him behind the scenes and asked what made him take part in this event:

"As a grandfather now, it is a gift for me to have my grandchild over for the evening and to read to him."

And what did you choose to read this evening to the hundreds of children out there?

"I read from my own book 'Father, this Fairytale is Good'. The story is about a father, and a mother, and two children. The mother knew how to tell fairytales, but the father was more of a technical man and had to learn how tell them. So, he secretly listened to how the mother told her fairytales, and in the end, he became a master too."