Literary festival: Move over web surfing, reading is back in vogue

Children throng to the event, enamoured by story telling, comic artists.


Aroosa Shaukat November 25, 2011

LAHORE: Over 1,000 private and government schools across Lahore participated in the first Children’s Literature Festival, which kicked off here on Friday at the Children’s Library Complex.

The festival was inaugurated by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who commended the efforts of the organisers in putting together such a festival.

“It is vital to inculcate in children the habit of reading and learning through interactive activities,” said the chief minister while addressing a gathering of students, teachers and parents. Sharif, read a story in Urdu, ‘Rehmdil madaari’, to a crowd of hundreds of young children.

Oxford University Press managing director Ameena Saiyid, Baela Raza Jamil of the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and Nargis Sultana also spoke at the inauguration ceremony. Dr Marilyn Wyatt, wife of the US ambassador to Pakistan, addressed the young audience, emphasising the need for children to find pleasure in reading. Mentioning her favourite childhood book character, Nancy Drew, Dr Wyatt said reading is the key to learning. Later, Dr Wyatt also read from Tom Sawyer.

The festival was officially inaugurated by setting several colourful balloons in the air as national songs played. A girl’s band from the Government Girls High School, Governor’s House, also performed at the end of the ceremony.

Speaking with the The Express Tribune, Saiyid said schools from Swat and parts of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa were also participating in the two-day festival.

‘We have arranged a session on regional languages for children coming in from other parts of Pakistan, which will be tomorrow,” she added.

Several festival activities were held in different halls simultaneously. The Sim Sim Humara puppet theatre by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop and USAID was greatly appreciated. The show was based on stories for children.

A young speakers’ competition was also held in several age groups. Hosted by young festival ambassador, Kamini Masood, a student from Lahore Grammar School, the competition, ‘Bol keh lub azaad hain tairay’, was dedicated to poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

One of the highlights of the festival was actor Nadia Jamil’s session on dramatic storytelling.

It was attended by more than 200 children. Jamil mesmerised the young listeners with her intense and animated storytelling often leaving children in bursts of laughter.

Leeza Pervaz, a teacher at LACAS, who had brought her students from class 2 to the festival said she hoped next time the event would be better organised keeping in mind the huge numbers it had attracted.

A workshop was organised by Comics Power in which Nida Shams, a graphic designer turned comic artist, showed children from  Sanjannagar School and Allied School how to draw comic faces.

Saiyid said she was thrilled about the event and that the response was beyond her expectations. She said a similar festival is scheduled to be organised in Peshawar next year. The festival will continue on November 26 (today) at from 10 am to 5 pm.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2011. 

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