Princess Laurentien, the sister in law of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands is well-known for her campaigns of literacy, and this week she paid a visit to the launch of a special project for those where literacy has an added difficulty – they are visually impaired. The project which runs until 14th October is entitled “Read Fest: all children should be able to read”. The event was held at the Vision School in Rotterdam which caters for those who are either blind or visually impaired in some way between the ages of four and twenty years.
After arriving at the event, the Princess was shown all the various media that were used at the school to help the children with their reading. From the simple braille, large print books and audio books through to books that come complete with TV magnification. She also read some books to some of the students, including one that she has written herself – the adventures of a “Mr Finney”. Before leaving the event, Princess Laurentien was introduced to staff at the school, parents of some of the pupils and also members of Association Unlimited Reading. The latter being the organisation which is behind the event and one that the Princess has been a patroness of for over ten years.
The Princess has long been a tireless campaigner for both literacy and the Dutch language, and that is reflected in her patronages. These include Chair of the Dutch Reading and Writing Federation and Honourary Chair of the Dutch Association of Public Libraries. Together with being the Patron of Dutch Language Society and Netherlands Listening and Braille Library. She has also helped the world realise that illiteracy is an underestimated problem, and because of her work she was in 2009 made a Special Envoy for UNESCO for “Literacy in Development”.
In 2010 she was a co-recipient of the Major Bosshardt award for her in combatting illiteracy. The award is named after a Dutch member of the Salvation Army, Alida Bosshardt, who did great work helping Jewish children during World War II, and also worked for the Salvation Army in the brothels of Amsterdam in later life. This included taking Princess Beatrix on a guided tour of the area.