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LAHORE, Nov 23: The country’s first two-day Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) is set to begin at Children’s Library Complex here from Friday (tomorrow), featuring host of activities aimed at creating an interest in children for books, reading, writing, authors and literature.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is scheduled to visit and speak at the inaugural ceremony. The CLF is being organised by the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and Oxford University Press (OUP) in collaboration with Foundation Open Society Institute, Pakistan, United States Consulate, Lahore, and Children’s Library Complex.

Speaking at a press conference at a local hotel on Wednesday, OUP managing-director Ameena Saiyid said that holding such a festival was a step toward providing children from differing backgrounds and age-groups an opportunity to experience the joys and rewards of reading for pleasure, wonder and information.

She said a galaxy of about 50 speakers and moderators including Dr Arifa Sayeda Zehra, Dr Marilyn Wyatt, Nadia Jamil, Adeel Hashmi, Anita Ghulam Ali, Anil Sethi, Amra Raza, Nafisa Shah, Sania Saeed, Zubeida Jalal and others would attend the festival.

She said children and educators from across the country and abroad would participate in the two-day array of activities.

Ms Saiyid said the CLF would feature talks and readings by famous children’s writers and would provide opportunities to the children to listen to their favourite books being read and discussed, attend classes on creative writing, learn about book-making, write book reviews and make comics and attend puppet shows and theatre performances.

In order to what she said “unlock the power of reading”, ITA director programmes Baela Raza Jamil said the festival would be an open and participatory event for all and sundry to explore their imagination and creativity. She said the participants would learn that reading literature was a luxury.

She said that there would be full day activities including ‘Khail Khail Mein’, ‘Batain aur Mulaqatain’, ‘walkabout performing puppets’, ‘walkabout characters’, ‘Alif Laila Book Bus activities, ‘Bol Key Lub Azad Hain Tairay’, a public speaking competition, as well as painting and research activities. There would also be a book fair, puppet shows based on popular characters from books and children’s theatre.

Referring to Annual Status of Education Report 2010 survey, Ms Jamil said learning levels of children in rural areas were facing a major crisis of learning. After the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, she said, getting education had become a fundamental right of every child.

Ms Jamil said the competitions at the festival would be adjudged by 18 judges and top three position holders as well as consolation prize winners would be awarded cash prizes to the tune of Rs10,000, Rs7,500, Rs5,000 and Rs3,000, respectively.

Educationist Arifa Syeda Zehra, who narrated children’s stories, said life would have been colourless, if there were no stories.

She also announced giving four cash prizes to position holders in Urdu category competitions. “This festival will open a gate that will thrust light, fragrance and freshness upon the participants and visitors”.

Actor Adeel Hashmi said the element of training with the passage of time had been excluded from the stream of education. He expressed the hope that this festival would serve as first drop of rain to save education and learning from being destroyed.

Actor Nadia Jamil said she had always enjoyed reading and added that books were considered best companion of any person.