Stories about violence and extremism in our society must not be allowed to become a part of children’s books, as these would serve to scare them rather than encourage an interest in literature. This was the consensus view of the panellists at a discussion on ‘Children’s Literature Today’ at the Lahore Literary Festival on Sunday.
Nina Marie Fite, the US consul general, said that children should be provided a comfortable atmosphere in which they could learn. Asked if it was the responsibility of parents, teachers or books to teach children moral values, Fite said this was also a controversial subject in America, but she felt that this was a task for parents. To a question about the destruction of schools in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas by US drone strikes, she said the US had helped rebuild 900 schools in the region. Asked why children’s books were imported from America to Pakistan but did not go the other way, she said this could be done in the future.
Novelist Musharraf Ali Farooqi suggested that children should not be confined to just learning from books. Telling stories and showing plays on various subjects was a more engaging way to educate, he said. Giving them stories about terrorism and violence in the tribal region would just spread fear, he said. Baela Jamil, the head of Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi, said that there was a need to find out what children actually wanted to learn. She said that telling children stories was a great way to educate them. In her experience, she said, many young children were well aware of the violence around the country. When they were asked to write about something, many of them wrote about gory incidents, she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2013.