The Roma Education Fund (REF) organised the first international Toy Libraries Conference for practitioners working in Roma communities in Belgrade on 6-7 June 2016. The goal of the event was to contribute to building knowledge and experience and to reducing the gap in early childhood education of Roma across Central and South Eastern Europe as well as to establish the Network of Toy Libraries working in Roma communities.
Supported by the CEI Cooperation Fund, the Toy Libraries Conference gathered more than 80 participants. Librarians from 9 countries and 19 toy libraries, early childhood education experts as well as members of the international institutions and Serbian ministries had the opportunity to learn and exchange information and knowledge about inclusion in early childhood education and the progress made so far. The Conference addressed a range of critically important issues and themes relating to obstacles and opportunities for Roma inclusion in early childhood education.
The conference was opened by Nadir Redzepi, Executive Director of the Roma Education Fund, and Zoran Jovanovic, CEI National Coordinator for Serbia. Gordana Cvetkovic from Social Inclusion Unit of Ministry of Education in Serbia, gave an overview of the inclusion policies in Serbia, successes and obstacles the Unit has had so far.
Reaching all children in their earliest years is one of the greatest challenges of early childhood systems. In order to reduce the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma, the Roma Education Fund supports Toy Libraries which contribute to quality early childhood development and care. Last year REF provided support to more than 2,009 children and 1,400 parents from all over Serbia, the Balkans and Central Europe.
The conference also featured a Toy Exhibition and Toy Corner to emphasise “learning by playing” - structured play accelerates children's development, and toys and games provide learning opportunities that prepare children for enrollment in kindergarten and primary school.

Photo: Srdjan Ilic