x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Sharjah Children's Reading Festival opens world of literature

The fifth annual event places young bookworms at the center of the literary action.

The festival is meant to encourage children to read. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
The festival is meant to encourage children to read. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

The fifth Sharjah Children's Reading Festival is this month. We were at the launch to find out what's on offer.

The event

No more special corners for the kids: the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival places young bookworms at the centre of the literary action. Running from April 23 to May 4 at the Expo Center, the fair will host a slew of local, regional and international children's authors and offer educational activities promoting the love of reading.

"Everyone worked tirelessly over the past months and gave their utmost to prepare this festival," says the coordinator, Hind Lenaid. "We hope the festival's various events rise to the level of responsibility and the trust bestowed upon us by our leaders and meet the aspirations of children of different ages, nationalities and educational stages."

The authors

More than 60 authors will attend the festival, their works ranging from children's and young adult fiction to parenting and education. The popular Arabic children's author Taghreed Al Najar, who has enchanted generations of children with a career spanning three decades, returns to the UAE.

On the western front, the American authors John Coy and Janet Burroway are on the invite list. The former is renowned for Strong to the Hoop, a colourful picture book that blends photography and scratchboard drawings.

The UK's CJ Daugherty is also on her way to discuss her Night School series, as is the chef and author Helen Nathan, responsible for the Flossie Crums books. The children's comic and author Ian Billing is also set to appear, performing his own blend of antics.

The programme

There is enough here to attract young and old. On the business end, the festival doubled its listed events to 450 with more than 80 local and international publishing houses showcasing their works. Youngsters can check out stalls and sections including Fun Village and Knowledge Ship, attend theatre demonstrations and meet cartoon characters.

"This is an event for the whole family and not just for children," said the festival director Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri. "The festival is becoming bigger each time because everyone can get involved and enjoy the events as well as learn new things."

The festival, indeed, has an educational element catering to parents and children. Events on offer include health, art and bookmaking workshops in addition to a session dedicated to instilling a love of mathematics in your child. Good luck with that one.

The illustrations

Back for the second time within the festival is the Sharjah Exhibition for Children Books Illustrations, including works from local and international artists. Up to 75 illustrators from 28 countries will battle it out for cash prizes ranging from US$8,000 (Dh29,400) for first place to three honourable mentions of $1,000 (Dh3,673) each.

A soon-to-be-announced prize will be given for the best Arabic Braille book. Al Ameri hopes the award kick-starts a much needed genre in the Arabic literary field. "A lot of publishers are thinking mostly in terms of profits when it comes to books," he says. "So here we are telling them to just focus on the quality and produce these important pieces and we will reward you for the best work."

Seek and you will find

They may be a dime a dozen in the region, but Al Ameri says these frequent get-togethers of book lovers and publishers play an important role. "There are no real distribution companies here when it comes to books," he says. "So if you really want to look for books from writers from Egypt and other places, then the book fairs and festivals are sometimes the only place to find them."

With the Sharjah Reading Festival on at the same time as the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (April 24-29), the best way to get the best out of both events might be to dedicate a weekend to each emirate.

The Sharjah Children's Reading Festival is April 23 to May 4 at the Expo Center. For more details, visit www.sharjahbookfair.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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