Power of the written word
“It’s never too early or too late to make friends with books,” says Ahmed Al Ameri, the director of the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, which runs until Friday.
Welcoming kids, their parents and young adults in droves, Al Ameri stresses that the festival is not just about books but also has an incredible line-up of 1,694 fun-filled events ranging from plays, art and science workshops, to activities designed for children with special needs. The annual Sharjah International Book Fair, which saw a million visitors last year, draws hordes of children with sessions marked specially for kids, so why a huge children’s reading festival just four months apart?
“The main book fair is great but the whole idea is how to make more people love books and make our community enjoy the love of the written word,” explains Al Ameri. “So investing in the future of our children is the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi.”
The widespread belief is that television and video games are taking kids away from books but their turnout at the book fair says otherwise.
“I believe that if you put a tablet and a book with beautiful illustrations in front of a baby, the baby will choose the book,” says Al Ameri. “Also, the amazing activities we have are designed to keep children away from electronic games. This year we have workshops that make science, maths and astronomy fun.”
This year’s festival also focuses on more serious issues such as child abuse.
“We have a programme called How to Say No on child abuse, which is designed not just for children and youth but for parents and teachers, too. We are taking care of special-needs children through a programme on autism and those who are slower in learning,” says Al Ameri, pointing out that many such events don’t cater to this segment.
Not to be missed is the UK-based interactive exhibition 1,001 Inventions, which chronicles a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements during the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation.
“A lot of people ask what has the Islamic world done,” says Al Ameri. They think we only depend on the West and we see only its inventions. When you come to this exhibition, the tables will be turned. It depicts the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation when the world was in the Dark Ages,” says Al Ameri, adding that it celebrates Sharjah’s selection as a Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014. The exhibition has toured London, Istanbul, New York, Washington DC and Kuala Lumpur.
The festival also offers a Creative Café, where children can interact with each other in dialogue sessions.