Sharjah: Children today expect to be entertained while being educated, and the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) is rolling into town to accomplish just that, the chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Ahmad Al Ameri told Gulf News that contrary to popular belief, children are still interested in traditional paper books — as long as the illustrations and content are in line with their expectations.
His comments came ahead of the ninth edition of SCRF, scheduled for April 19 to 29 at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Al Ameri pointed out that the 11-day festival is not just about books, or reading, but also offers culture and fun for the whole family.
The annual SCRF is held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah; and Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.
This year at SCRF, there will be almost 2,100 activities for children and youth, besides a cultural and cookery corner, galleries, contests and awards.
Al Ameri said: “This festival is becoming the main attraction to develop the habit of reading in children, the youth, and families. We are providing a base for developing our children — our future authors — and the community.”
He added that the unique approach of SCRF aims to “introduce education as entertainment to children”. For example, the centrepiece of this year’s festival will be an exhibition titled ‘Brian: The Inside Story’. Organised by the American Museum of Natural History, the surreal exhibition “draws on 21st century research and technology to offer visitors a new perspective into their brains through imaginative art, vivid brain-scan imaging and dynamic interactive exhibits”, the SCRF says.
Al Ameri described it as “a trip through the human mind, to understand the brain because the brain is the treasure of humanity. We have built a whole city built inside SCRF to teach children and give them entertainment in a better way”.
Besides the activities, there will be “amazing illustrations” of over 300 artworks of 90 artists from dozens of countries, he added.
“If you want to improve children books, the illustrations have to match children’s expectations. The illustration is the main vehicle for the message you want to reach children.”
Also new this year will be a competition for schoolchildren who will have to present a summary of sorts of each SCRF lecture they attend. “What’s the reason for this competition? We’re trying to improve children’s communication skills, improve their writing, how they present their thoughts. We’re developing future authors,” Al Ameri said.
The chairman also pointed out that the SCRF is now seen as an international event for expats, Emiratis and Arabs alike.
“It’s a mix of visitors who we receive. We’re bringing authors from everywhere – India, Pakistan, France, Canada, Turkey, America, Russia, Britain and the Arab world… A lot of expats who are living here used to think it’s an Arabic book fair – it’s not. When they see the big names coming from the wider world and the Arab world, it has a big effect on the community and around the world.”
Some of the special guests this year are New York Times bestselling authors Gayle Forman (Just One Day) and Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said).
Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2017
Where: Expo Centre Sharjah
When: April 19-29
2,100 activities, Cultural Cafe and Cookery Corner
300 illustrations and artworks from 90 countries
Prizes for children, schoolchildren, writers, illustrators and publishers