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LAHORE: Hundreds of children gathered on the second and last day of the Children’s Literature Festival.

The event was organised by the Oxford University Press (OUP), Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA), and Open Society Foundation (OSF).

Many children said they found a number of activities interesting. One of these was ‘IGGY’, a session where children participated in online learning through activities such as discussions and debates with other schoolchildren across the world.

In a section of the garden, letters were displayed from children of Pakistan and India, who had made pen pals and written to each other hoping to extend peace on their behalf.

In addition, panel discussions were organised on a wide range of topics related to child development and the benefits of book reading. Some schoolteachers, who visited the festival with their students, said the festival had organised multiple activities besides book stalls to instill a culture of book reading in children and help them develop their abilities in areas such as critical thinking and creative writing.

“Usually we think of these events as simply a place where books are sold but this is a refreshing change not only for students but for teachers too who can help change the way they communicate and teach,” said a teacher.

Many well-known personalities such as Zubaida Jalal, Samar Minallah, Amra Alam and Khaled Anum participated in many of the activities taking place on the day, including book reading, guest lectures, and orations.

One of the most responsive of discussions was held in the main hall called ‘Girl Rising’ which was presented by documentary filmmaker from KPK Samar Minallah, and former education minister Zubaida Jalal who belongs to Balochistan. The campaign was introduced and a film documenting lives of nine extraordinary girls who struggle to achieve their dreams despite all odds was screened. The participants who had attended left the hall with new exposure and experience.

Samar Minallah’s lullaby ‘Allaho’, with a video highlighting resilient and brave girls of Pakistan, was screened.

Both Jalal and Minallah generated an interactive discussion around the films. The audience comprising schoolgirls from different schools made a pledge to spread the message further.

“It was a great source of information and I was moved when I saw girls from far-flung areas of Pakistan being so brave where education was concerned,” said one schoolgirl.

Several discussions on the Punjabi literature and its history were held. The organisers said they hoped to promote the aesthetic and historical value of the language using the two-day event as a platform. Punjabi poets and writers narrated Punjabi folklore and poems to the children.

The OUP had also set up an activity to familiarise children with the art of bookmaking. Children also enjoyed puppet shows, skits, mime, and plays at the festival.

“In school we only study and never have time for these things,” a schoolgirl had posted on a wall. “Here we enjoyed a lot doing arts and craft to our hearts content and learnt about books too.”

ITA Director Programmes Dr Baela Raza Jamil said the success of each CLF had motivated the organisers to do more for young children and encourage them to read.

OUP Managing Director Ameena Saiyid said she felt herself dedicated to nurturing a healthy environment of book reading in Pakistan for children. Dr Baela also announced that the next CLF would be organised in south Punjab in December this year.

The CLF had also engaged organisations like the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, the Lahore Waste Management Company, and Gripp’s Theatre to organise interactive sessions, workshops, training sessions and other educational activities.

At a discussion, Punjab Population Welfare Minister Zakiya Shahnawaz assured the participants that she would talk to CM Shahbaz Sharif to change the names of some schools like Deaf and Dumb School, which caused humiliation to special children.

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