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Children’s Literature Festival: Books at the centre of discussion

Published May 25, 2013 03:27am

ISLAMABAD, May 24: Books were on the discussion table at the Children’s Literature Festival in Islamabad on Friday which was attended by over 10,000 schoolchildren from the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The two-day event is being held at Pak-China Friendship Centre.

Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor at Quaid-i-Azam University declared that to contain mistakes, factual errors and twisting fact and fiction, books currently being taught in schools should be “thrown in the ocean”.

Instead of creating a desire to learn, they stifle interest and encourage rote-learning, he maintained.

He said reading and exploring ideas should be encouraged among students so that they could develop interest in what they are taught.

While Zubeida Mustafa was of the opinion that ultimate goal of an education was to become a better person, Dr. Hoodbhoy noted that perhaps question of morality should be left to parents, rather than teachers whose primary focus should be on improving knowledge.

By encouraging the practice of reading, students can become critical and discerning thinkers, who deconstruct stereotypes, such as differences between Hindus and Muslims rather than perpetuating divides that cause conflict, Mustafa told the audience of students.

In a puppet show performed by Farooq Qaiser’s Sangam Theatre, Uncle Muppet gleefully sang to the youngsters about “stories in books, books full of stories.”

For the students, the festival appeared to be invigorating as they sang song and recited poetry of their own.

Urdu novelist Amra Alam said that books had to be made accessible to young readers.

Instead of focusing on flowery language and complex ideas, simple and understandable material could develop the habit of reading among children, she maintained.

She was of the opinion that interest in literary verse develops from home, for which the parents should collect related books from shops and libraries in order to ignite the passion in their children.

Teachers could take this forward, but students who excelled in studies, often had parents who were vigilant in creating an interest in reading.

Famous painter Akram Dost Baloch said they learned from children as much as they learned from them. He was looking forward to building better relations with the children.

Artist, columnist, director, puppeteer, voice actor, author and well known for his fictional puppet Uncle Sargam, Farooq Qaisar said he was pleased to see the enthusiasm in children coming here to learn.

He expressed the hope that the children would get more informal learning opportunities.

In another session, the Karachi-based writer, Rumana Husain, introduced her graphic story book Rani and the flood has send a message out to the children to find happiness in the hardest and difficult of times.

Similar sessions followed where children came face to face with some of the big names in the writers and artists community.

They were introduced to the process of Little Art Films, the importance of understanding history and appreciating the literary traditions besides learning about building confidence and public speaking through humour.

Day two of the event would hold similar activities of puppet shows, interactive poetry recitations, art of creative literature, reading out loud, music sessions and story telling besides many more.