LAHORE, Nov 25: Country’s first Children’s Literature Festival that opened with a promise to build children’s natural curiosity for learning at Children’s Library Complex here on Friday drew hundreds of students and gelled them into an environment of reading and learning in an interesting manner.
Schoolchildren, who were having fun, told Dawn that they enjoyed listening stories, watching puppet shows and bought books like “Paltu Prindey” (Pet birds) and other storybooks.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the inaugural ceremony said the institutions working for the protection of books, their development and promotion were serving the society in real sense. “This is praiseworthy,” he said.
The two-day Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) organised by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and Oxford University Press (OUP) in collaboration with Foundation Open Society Institute, Pakistan and the US Consulate, Lahore, showcased host of activities including dramatic storytelling, meeting authors, making a book, live cartoon presentation and puppet show, creative writing class for teenagers, exercise on developing imagination through reading stories to children, setting up and running a school library and panel discussions on different issues. Besides bookstall set by various publishers, there was also a stall of Interactive Teaching and Learning Programme that offered art, science and mathematics corners. Children kept all venues jam-packed, where all these activities were taking place.
Garrison Academy’s Class-II students Talia and Amina, who were listening dramatic storytelling by Nadia Jamil, told Dawn that the festival was awesome and they were enjoying every moment. They said that they had also watched puppet shows and seen lots of books. “We will buy books and read them for enjoyment,” they said.
Children also enjoyed reading from Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer by Dr Marilyn Wyatt, the wife of US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron P. Munter.
At another storytelling enclosure, a five-member Indian team led by Ankur Society for Alternatives in Education director Sharmila Bhagat narrated different Indian-origin stories to children. They also asked the listeners to narrate and share their stories or event in their lives to ensure that writers hidden within children should come out.
Ms Bhagat said her organisation was working on how education could be linked with the people’s lives. Stating that the school textbooks should have real life stories, she added that a desire of reading and writing among children could be inculcated.
Two Slovakian students Alexandra Durtoua and Dominika Gurinova, who have arrived in Pakistan for their internship in the field of education, said they were pleasantly surprised to see such a positive educational activity that had involved hundreds of students from varied backgrounds – studying in public and private schools.
Earlier, speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said the new generation was a precious asset and guarantee of bright future. If the children would be offered quality education and opportunities and groomed in a proper manner, they would for sure change the destiny of the nation and put it on the road to progress and prosperity.
The chief minister committed that all resources would be provided to equip the new generation with modern knowledge. He said the revolutionary initiatives like setting up Daanish schools for the poor in backward areas, Punjab Educational Endowment Fund, IT Labs and holding of speech and essay writing competitions were unprecedented and aimed at motivating students to learn and excel.Acknowledging that children from across Punjab as well as Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were participating in the festival, Mr Sharif hoped that they would return with an urge to read books, write independently and excel in their lives. He also hoped that the talented young generation would display its abilities and restore the lost image of their motherland in the comity of nations.
Dr Wyatt said the CLF-like festivals could help promote literary activities among the youth. She said reading of books was of great importance as they helped create awareness about modern knowledge and new inventions. She said the US was working jointly with Pakistani government to promote reading habit among children.
OUP managing-director Ameena Saiyid said the festival had been organised to promote reading and equip students with a dynamic and independent means of searching for knowledge. Stating that a child was never too young for books, she said: “We want to make books a part of children’s lives”.
Ms Saiyid said the OUP as well as the CLF wanted to motivate, inspire and encourage children to develop a lifelong reading habit. “If children learn to read, they will read to learn,” she said.
She also urged the parents and teachers to offer every child the experience of reading for both pleasure and purpose and increase their enthusiasm for further and wider reading. Stating that she believed in the power of storytelling, Ms Saiyid said when children read, they travel back in history, gaze into the future and learn the rhythm of language.
ITA director programmes Baela Raza Jamil said the festival would remain open for children of all ages from 9am to 5pm on Saturday (today).