Why a festival for children’s literature?

Updated October 04, 2015

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Young artists perform during the Children's Literature Festival at Lok Virsa. ─ Online
Young artists perform during the Children's Literature Festival at Lok Virsa. ─ Online

The Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) isn’t playing second fiddle to its more grown-up counterparts anymore: this year’s outing in Islamabad saw thousands of visitors, young and old, flocking to Lok Virsa. Dawn spoke to two educationists who have been at the forefront of this and other constructive activities about the impetus for such an event and where to go from here.

Khaled Anam
Author, actor and musician

“The idea behind CLF as far as I am concerned is that we are moving away from books. Our generation relied on books. Today even though we have the electronic media, smartphones, computers and all, books still are very important part of the process of growing up.

Involving children in this means involving grownups - teachers and parents - because they are the ones who are going to buy them the books. Children are a part of society, they are not isolated. Parents need to be careful and watch what their children are doing on the internet because there are dangers, like cybercrime. Parenthood is a 24/7 job, so you can’t just hand over your child to the television. We need to teach parents as well, and that’s what CLF is all about: interaction, and giving options - a lot of people don’t know about all the different kinds of books that exist. They can be teaching tools; we have been moving away from the alphabet and that’s a problem.”

Baela Raza Jamil
CLF organiser

“We have decided to do what we think is right. It’s time to change the narrative, and tell people you can dare to imagine otherwise. You can dare to talk otherwise.

These kids are stuck, preparing for tests, training themselves. How often do we really talk to them? I was at the UN, and children from around the world, who have seen horrific things, are saying liberating and empowering things because they value themselves. We have made people suffer from guilt all their lives for who they are; for being poor, for being unlettered - so imagine a nation built on guilt or lack of trust. CLF is a space which allows people to blossom, and to dare to think otherwise. The idea is to let people thrive.

I feel, as a citizen, that we must open up. We asked the government on the National Education Policy 2016 - we would live to have youth voice in the curriculum; whether they are students, young teachers. The CLF is an assertion of the citizens of this country. It’s time for citizens to rise - we have been too lazy and too lethargic for too long.”

Published in Dawn October 4th, 2015

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