Spreading fear?: Remove violence, extremism from books, say authors

Published: March 1, 2015
Writers urge govt, media, organisations to transform literature for children. PHOTO: AYSHA SALEEM/EXPRESS

Writers urge govt, media, organisations to transform literature for children. PHOTO: AYSHA SALEEM/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Stories about violence and extremism within our society should not be published in literature for children, believes writer Rumana Husain.

She was speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘Is There a Dearth of Children’s Literature in Pakistan?’ at the 16th Children’s Literature Festival at the Arts Council of Pakistan on Saturday. The sparse attendance at the session – there were only four people in the audience, two of whom were reporters – spoke volumes about the dearth of interest about children’s literature in the country too.

“The extremist thinking that our children have today is a gift from General Ziaul Haq,” Husain asserted, blaming the policies of the 1980s in which, according to her, themes relating to Islamisation were added to the curriculum. Urging the government, the media and organisations to use the best available resources to transform children’s literature, she highlighted the ability of electronic media to change the way in which people think.

“Giving children books about terrorism and violence or telling them stories about the Peshawar school tragedy will only make them fearful,” said author Musharraf Farooqi, who was moderating the session. “We cannot expect them to learn only from books – it is our duty as parents, teachers and society to create a healthy environment for them.”

Novelist Dr Arfa Sayeda Zehra stressed the importance of word selection while finalising content for children’s books, suggesting that words such as ‘gun’, ‘bullet’ and ‘sword’ should be avoided.

“We silence children who speak in Urdu,” she remarked, moving on to children’s literature in Urdu. “What are we doing to our national language?”

Amra Alam, another writer, lamented the quality of the literature being offered to students as she discussed the parts played by teachers and parents in the lack of interest children have in reading.

“Children today don’t like Urdu; if we as parents ask them to speak in English, why would they?” she pointed out, adding that Urdu teachers are often less lively than English or science teachers, leaving students disinterested in Urdu literature.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2015.

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