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LAHORE: The three-day 15th Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) and the third Teachers’ Literature Festival (TLF) will be taking place at the Children’s Library Complex (CLC) from Nov 27 to promote reading, creative writing and critical thinking among children.

The festival – a nationwide social movement in response to the low levels of learning in Pakistan – is being organised by Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Oxford University Press (OUP) in collaboration with Open Society Foundations (OSF), CLC and the Punjab School Education Department.

At a news conference at the Children’s Library Complex, CLF Founder Dr Baela Raza Jamil said the literature festival was serving as a social movement to change the education system, practically demonstrating what works to capture the hearts and minds of children, youth, teachers and parents.

The festival would be a free public event for all three days and all school systems from across Pakistan from 9am to 5pm. There will be 14 strands of multisensory programmes to promote reading for creativity, imagination beyond textbooks and tests. She hoped the CLF would attract thousands of children like the previous three years. At the festival, she added, 15 books authored by children would be formally launched.

At the Children’s Library Complex (CLC), Dr Baela said each hall and allocated space would be named after classical and popular literary figures, authors, poets and characters, such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Waris Shah, Kitab Ghar, Bulleh Shah, Manto Ki Gali, Bano Qudsia, Ashfaque Ahmed, Soofi Ghulam Mustafa Tabbasum, Dastaan Sara’aay, Bagh-i-Sheherezade, making them come alive in the imagination of children and youth.

She stressed it was high time the local education system started to take away the CLF strands and integrate them in their annual calendar and classroom practices. She asked the Punjab School Education Department, Punjab Education Foundation and other private school chains to bring children to the festival to inculcate in them the love for reading.

She said this year, six Indian delegates would be participating in the festival who wanted to replicate it in Delhi. Stating that the CLF had already been replicated in Lucknow, she said that Pakistan Ambassador to India Abdul Basit would be holding a CLF in the Pakistan High Commission there.

Dr Baela said the Teachers’ Literature Festival would be held for the first time in Lahore, where around 1,500 to 2,000 teachers would be expected to engage with core concepts and strands of CLF to practically promote reading and critical thinking in classrooms and schools.

Open Society Foundations Senior Programme Officer Nargis Sultana said the TLF would provide an opportunity to teachers to voice their views and interact with co-professionals and learn in the process. She said the CLF would become a sustainable national movement towards critical thinking, creativity and learning beyond textbooks.

CLF Ambassador and known actor Adeel Hashmi said festivals like CLF could serve as a breath of fresh air for society. He regretted the electronic media had knowingly closed down opportunities of education and training for children.

ITA Chairperson Narmeen Hamid said children must be given an opportunity to laugh, enjoy and get away from the stress of classrooms and schools, and the festival would provide such an opportunity.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Education Minister Rana Mashhood are expected to inaugurate the festival.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2014